THE Warilla-Lake South Gorillas, after back-to-back second half fades against Nowra-Bomaderry and Gerringong, got their 2020 Group Seven Rugby League season back on track against the Stingrays on Sunday.
The win, the Gorillas' second of the campaign, moves them into fifth on the ladder heading into round eight.
"All the boys were obviously pretty disappointed coming off two tough losses, in games we had opportunities to win," Gorillas hooker Sam Hooper, who admits his side's lack of experience has hurt them at times during the season, said.
"As a squad, we could have gone one of two ways with it but we didn't drop our heads and really tried to stay positive at training, as we knew we weren't too far off.
"We know how good we are as a group, it's just about showing it out on the field.
"Thankfully, all the boys put that behind them and produced one of our best 80-minute performances, in what we were calling a must-win game.
"It's given everyone the confidence that we are on the right track, going into this weekend's big match against Jamberoo."
As Hooper alluded to, if his side wants to keep hold of their spot in the all-important top five, they will have to overcome second-placed Jamberoo - who are fresh off a 22-all draw with Gerringong.
"Whenever you come up against Jamberoo, you know you're in for a full 80-minute contest," Hooper said.
"It's going to be a good challenge for us on Sunday, to really see where we are at because we've been able to stick with every team we've played so far.
"If we play to our strengths and complete our sets, I have complete confidence in our squad on getting the job done, which would go a long way to helping us cement a finals spot."
As focused as Hooper and his fellow young core, headlined by the likes of Blair Grant, Jake Brisbane and Justin Jones, are on playing finals football in 2020, they know this could be only the start of something special for the Cec Glenholmes Oval-based club.
"Prior to this year, I'd only played rugby league with Blair and a little bit of Oztag with the other two [Brisbane and Jones], but we have all clicked really quickly," Hooper, who helped the Gorillas win the 2019 under 18s title, said.
"Each game we play together, we become more and more comfortable alongside one another and it's starting to show on the field.
"Obviously we can play off each other but we are only as good as our forwards, who have been enormous this year, allow us to be.
"With so many young players in our squad, it's all about developing as much as we can - as we know this could be the beginning of the next successful generation for the Gorillas."
While Hooper's Gorillas haven't reached the Group Seven summit since 2011, Sunday's opponents at Kevin Walsh Oval, the Superoos, still have a solid core group from the 2017 premiership.
"We're lucky enough to still have about half a dozen players in our squad from that premiership side," Superoos lock Luke Asquith said.
"Although I see plenty of differences between the two sides, I have just as much confidence in this year's side to be able to compete with anyone in this competition."
As happy as the Roos were to walk away from last round's fixture with the Lions with one point, there's also a sense of leaving points on the table, after leading 18-nil at half-time.
"Obviously Gerringong is a great team and to get a point against them, in some respects, is a positive," Asquith said.
"The second half was disappointing but I'm confident, as a group, we will learn a lot from it moving forward.
"In saying that, our defence has been our backbone so far this season and the way we kept turning up for one another in that first half was amazing.
"We haven't leaked many points (67 - which is a league-best) through the first five games and we know going into finals, it's going to be key in helping us get to where we want to be."
This could prove to be a challenge for the Superoos against a side that is completely unrecognisable to the last Gorillas side they faced in 2019.
"We know we need to come to play against a very young side, who will play with plenty of enthusiasm," Asquith, who admits this is the closest Group Seven competition he's ever been a part of during his seven seasons in the top grade, said.
"I've been really impressed with what I've seen from their squad in 2020.
"They're obviously very different from the Gorillas teams of the past, using their speed instead of power.
"One thing that doesn't change with Warilla is their toughness and relentlessness in trying to win games of footy.
"All the boys know we've got to be both mentally and physically prepared for the game."
If the hosts do chalk up their fourth win of the campaign on Sunday, it will go a long way to securing them a top-three spot.
"Getting the win against Gerringong would have helped in our chase for a top-three spot but we're lucky enough to put ourselves in a position where our fate is in our owns hands," he said.
"If we are able to win our last three games, we will lock in a top-three spot and double chance come finals time."
Elsewhere in round eight, Shellharbour takes on Kiama at Ron Costello Oval, Nowra-Bomaderry hosts Albion Park-Oak Flats and Berry-Shoalhaven Heads chase their first win of the season against Stingrays.