ON a warm sunny day at their home ground of Ricoh Rugby Park, the Shoalhaven Ex-Servicemens/Printer Corp first grade side raced away for a strong win to keep their semi-finals hopes flickering.
Tech-Waratahs played well in round one to outpoint Shoals, but could not match the speed and aggression of a pumped up Shoalhaven side desperate to get back into winning circles.
Shoals pounded Tech’s line for much of the game to post three tries in each half to both secure the four competition points for the win and add the one extra point for scoring four tries or more.
Shoals led 21-nil at the break, and while Tech did mount some pressure moments, Shoals posted 19 points to five in the second half to score a convincing 40-5.
It was do or die time and Shoals responded to the challenge with flair, forcefulness and fire in the tummy.
The team went onto the field with a batch of the club’s very fine young rugby players in the top grade run-on side for the first time.
Gareth Davis at prop, Trent Dickerson at breakaway and Jacks Watts and Jack Atfield in the centres all made their debuts.
All played like veterans and were cheered off the field after this fine exhibition of running rugby.
Shoals opened the scoring after tearing into the early rucks and mauls with rare vigour.
It was not long before Josh Dennis cut through in mid field, raced to the full back, then passed inside to Jack Watts, who raced over for a try near the posts.
Tech tried valiantly to mount a sustained counter attack, but the slickness they displayed in round one was somehow absent.
Shoals repulsed a series of attacks on their line then fought their way to the other end of the field.
Then in a piece of astounding tippy toes by a tall lock, Adam Sargent received the ball while hurtling along at full pace.
He had three men to beat and 20 metres to run.
He threw an elegant dummy to confound the racing cover then ambled over for a well-earned try.
Keiran Brandon knocked over five conversions for the afternoon and this kept the scoreboard rattling along.
Then just as the switch was being thrown to signal half-time, Jack Atfield capitalised on quick ball from his raging forwards, cut through the defence like a porpoise through warm water, and found Keiran Brandon, who used his lightning speed to fly away for the try.
Shoals went to the sheds leading 21-nil.
The challenge for Shoals in the final 40 minutes was to secure the win but to also score at least one more try to get the bonus point.
They did this with room to spare.
Prop James Smith, who played a huge role in securing this win, was given a neat pass about 20 metres out from Tech’s line.
It was no contest.
He sharply and aggressively brushed off a would-be tackler, strode through another, and carried Tech’s fullback over the line with him.
A few minutes later Josh Dennis showed his maturity with a great individual try. He received the ball on the run from a tap penalty, threw a huge dummy that would have fooled a ventriloquist and then strolled leisurely over for a try near the posts.
He richly deserved this reward as he was one of the best on the park.
Tech mounted a determined effort for the next 20 minutes, keeping Shoals well away from the ball.
Shoals players were forced into errors and the referee awarded a stack of penalties against them.
Shoals defence had a solid workout in this phase, with Adam Sargent, Alex Wilson, Tom Horton and Gareth Davis tackling like men possessed.
Shoals weathered the storm well, and with Mark Brandon and Jack Watts leading the way, they raced to the other end of the field.
A quickly taken penalty saw the ball whipped out to a lurking James Smith, who capped of this solid game with his second try of the afternoon.
Shoals never really looked in danger in this game, which served to also ‘blood’ some of its promising youngsters.
Best players for Shoals were James Smith, Josh Dennis and Adam Sargent.
It was not only a fabulous day for on field rugby, but being Green Steam Day, a huge crowd was drawn to the ground for this annual festival of frolics involving the delicate and not infrequent tasting of Angove’s green ginger wine.
A great day was had by all.
Shoals play Vikings next Saturday in Wollongong in a deferred match.
This will make or break Shoals’ season as Vikings are the team just four points in front of Shoals on the ladder.
While a win will not guarantee Shoals a semi-finals’ spot, a loss will certainly snuff out their chance.
Shoals finish round two with a game against one of the competition front runners in Avondale on Saturday, August 24 at Avondale.
This professional team has given various sides in the IDRU competition some fearful thrashings this season, with Vikings a recent victim, losing by a score in the 90s.
Shoals will need to be in top form for this game.