Shamrocks have reinforced their status as genuine Illawarra Rugby contenders after they claimed a dominant victory over Bowral at Ocean Park on Saturday.
The loss was Bowral's first of the season, with Shamrocks proving too good in both attack and defence to run out 26-12 winners.
After struggling through the early weeks of the competition, Shamrocks coach Paul Ridgeway was thrilled to see his team finally produce a complete performance.
"We came into this game knowing that's the measuring stick and that's the level of footy we've got to play at," Ridgeway said. "We've had a tough start to the season, had opportunities against Vikings that we let slip away, and were really good defensively against Kiama last week, but not in attack.
"Today we executed everything and that was what we asked, just get the core skills right, execute and create pressure on the back of that."
Shamrocks controlled the first half from the opening whistle, jumping out to a 12-0 lead inside the first 15 minutes as Bowral struggled to find their rhythm in attack.
Bowral hit back through fullback Ryan Hutchings-Knight, however it was the home side who would finish the first half on top. After dominating their opponents throughout the half, the Shamrocks forward pack asserted their authority through a push-over try from a five metre scrum.
For Ridgeway, such a performance from his pack had been brewing for some time.
"We have a good pack and outside of Heath Mercer, who has just come back, it's been constant this first month.
"They've been settling in together for the last couple of weeks and I think we really saw that today, they're familiar with each other, comfortable with each other and it made a difference."
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While the first half laid the platform for victory, the match was won during a tense 15-minute period to open the second half. Desperate to close the 12-point gap, Bowral spent much of the early stages of the second half camped inside Shamrocks half.
Shamrocks were relentless in defence, putting Bowral under constant pressure. That pressure led to numerous errors and allowed breakaway Iszak Lunney to attack the breakdown, stealing the ball on numerous occasions.
With Shamrocks holding firm, the match was ultimately sealed when Dale Sullivan crossed with just under 10 minutes remaining.
"That's our strength, defence," Ridgeway said. "We've got an appetite for that physicality in that part of the game. We like to build pressure on that and take away their time and space with quick line speed and I think we did that really well today.
"That's what we came to do, create pressure so that they were feeling it and then force errors, which we did."
The Shamrocks victory means Illawarra Rugby is left with no unbeaten teams, with the competition's only other undefeated side, Camden, also falling on Saturday.
The Rams played host to Avondale, with the Wombats returning home with a 25-14 victory.
University bounced back from last week's loss to Bowral by claiming a comprehensive 52-22 win over Shoalhaven.
Tech claimed their first victory of the season by upsetting Vikings 19-17. The loss marks Vikings second in a row after last week's defeat to Camden.
Finally, Kiama also secured their first win of the year, edging Campbelltown 33-31.
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