WARILLA-Lake South Gorillas welcomed Shellharbour City Sharks back to the Group 7 Rugby League competition on Sunday by downing their traditional rivals 24-18.
The Gorillas led the Cec Glenholmes Oval first grade encounter 18-12 at the break, which was played in warm, energy-sapping conditions.
Making their return from the Illawarra competition, the away side were punished for ill-discipline via a 9-0 first half penalty count, but displayed composure to remain in the hunt.
Warilla also overcame the loss of fullback Nick Lazarevski to injury during the first stanza.
The home outfit opened their account in just the fifth minute when centre Blake Colgan finished off a slick backline movement, preceded by classy lead-up work from Aaron Henry.
The four-pointer was unconverted, and somewhat against momentum Shellharbour snatched the scoreboard advantage when Ian Catania’s elusiveness resulted in a converted try.
The Gorillas could well have brought a tent with them; so much time did they spend camped at the money end of the field.
Twenty-five minutes in they finally turned said pressure into further points, a deft Jesse Dee short ball sending Beau Sewell over.
A spate of penalties and additional defensive workload beginning to take their toll on the visitors, and in swift order Craig Nolan barged over from dummy half for 14-6.
The buffer was further extended when winger Jarryd Pepper crossed in the corner.
Shellharbour back-rower Jacob Condello touching down shortly before the oranges cut the deficit in half.
Given the circumstances the Sharks would likely have been pleased to have trailed by just six points at half-time.
Warilla’s always threatening three-quarter Tyson Brown strolled over in the 45th minute, suggesting that the home side may well have gone on to rack up a sizeable score.
It was going to require something special to breach some physical Gorillas’ defence, and on the hour mark centre Bronx Goodwin was on the receiving end of a fortuitous bounce from an attacking kick and streaked away to score.
The former Raiders, Sharks and Dragons NRL player converted his own try to again afford the Sharks the sniff of a comeback victory.
However, despite Shellharbour’s glut of field position during the final ten minutes, they were unable to add to their tally.
The Gorillas, with last year’s heart-breaking one-point grand final loss still fresh in their collective memories appear to be a genuine contender again this season.
Shellharbour will also derive consolation from being in the contest until the final bell, despite understandably not playing to their potential.
Henry, Mark Walsh and Nolan were Warilla’s standouts, while Condello, Harold Snell and Matt Hillcoat were the best for Shellharbour.