THEY'RE only two weeks into a rebooted campaign but next week's bye can't come quickly enough for Wests Illawarra after eking out a 12-0 Presidents Cup win over Western Rams on Saturday.
In wet conditions at Parrish Park the Devils made the most of few opportunities in the first half, grabbing two tries, while Mitch Porter's 76th minute penalty goal were the only points in a dour second stanza.
It may have come at a cost, with star centre Colby Pellow and on-field general Justin Rodrigues unable to finish the match due to injury.
It was the Devils second brutal grind in seven days after being run down by old foes Thirroul in their competition-opener last week.
With barely a month of training prior, coach Pete McLeod was proud of his side's mental toughness on a far from easy afternoon.
"Last week was really hard to get them back to training, we couldn't really train much on Tuesday at all," McLeod
"We got back together on Thursday to fix a few things and I think we went some way towards doing that today.
"Our attack needs some work but we were gritty in defence and I can't fault their effort. The conditions were tough and we played a big physical footy team.
"There was a period there where we didn't finish our sets very well and that put us under a bit of pressure but we defended well for long periods. They threw a lot at us so to keep them to nil was a big effort.
"We've got the bye now and it really couldn't come at a better time for us, and then we play Dubbo [Cyms] here at home which will be another good challenge."
Porter finished off some neat lead-up work from Jackson Walsh for the first four-pointer as heavy rain set in in the 14th minute.
The hosts extended the lead to 10 when Michael Appleby collected an easy try courtesy of a perfectly placed grubber from Rodrigues two minutes before halftime.
The Rams made most of the running in the second half, and looked most dangerous when five-eighth Harry Seijka had the ball in his hands.
It put the visitors within reach of points on several occasions but they couldn't break their duck, the Devils dogged defence forcing them to make the long drive back west without notching a point.
It was not such a pleasant day for the hosts in the curtain-raiser, with the Devils surrendering a 22-6 lead to go down 35-22 to Corrimal in the first weekend of the Illawarra Open Age comp.
The Devils looked to be doing it easy before a sunning third quarter saw the Cougars run in four unanswered tries to take a 28-22 lead.
They added another in the final term, with five-eighth Matt Guy sealing the deal with a late field goal to put the result beyond doubt.
Elsewhere, the Butchers defeated Avondale 8-0 at Dandaloo Sports Ground, while Helensburgh defeated Dapto 36-18 at Rex Jackson Oval.
The Tigers senior side did not fare as well at home, going down 28-4 to Ryde-Eastwood in round two of the Sydney Shield competition.