The Shoalhaven Ex-Servicemens/Printer Corp first grade side played host to the always-powerful Avondale Wombats at Ricoh Rugby Park on Saturday.
The grounds were in splendid order and just right for running rugby, although the surrounding air was as cold as it gets in mid-winter in Bowral.
The hardy supporters rugged up in the top deck of the cavernous western stands and settled in to watch some vigorous games. This they got in spades.
Despite Shoals giving away many kilograms per man they fought doggedly, desperately and determinedly to force Avondale to fight hard for their points. While the first half was a pretty even tussle, Avondale ran away with the game in the second half, as their big men pounded through Shoals’ tiring defence.
The Wombats scored eight tries to nil throughout, but were kept to just two tries in the first half.
The scoreboard read 14-3 at half-time but Avondale ran in 34 points in the second half to comfortably take the game.
Avondale opened their scoring in the 10th minute with a 50-metre surge that saw their fleet-footed winger race away out wide.
The long range conversion saw them move to a seven-nil advantage.
Shoals fought back from the restart and put Avondale under huge pressure as the forwards commanded the rucks and mauls and the backs were given good ball to open up their attack.
Steve Holmes came in from fullback a number of times to try to force through but their opponent’s defence was pretty impregnable.
Halves Watts and Dennis tried hard to work the ball around the park using strategic kicks to gain valuable ground.
Loose forward Tom Horton followed the ball in a non-stop display that constantly put his team on the attack.
Dillon Marshall, at centre, had few opportunities to show his wares in attack but was called on to do an enormous amount of tackling and this he achieved with rare courage.
Holmes converted a penalty shot at the 15-minute mark after Shoals had rampaged up the field with determined forward rushes.
Shoals used this tactic quite a lot in this game as these bursts of forward power proved troublesome to the Avondale defence.
However loose passing and the taking of unwise options allowed Avondale to tie Shoals up in the mauls and gain the advantage in the ensuing scrum.
Finally, after a period of back and forth play, Avondale got onto a roll and after a series of dynamic forward bursts they managed to go over for their second converted try just before half time.
The teams went into the break with Avondale leading by 14-3.
The second half saw Avondale emerge as the more dominant team.
They constantly made good ground up the middle with their huge tight forwards carving into Shoals’ defensive shield.
After tying up the forwards they would then unleash their slick backline and the scoreboard would jangle once more.
They scored well, earned tries at the fifth minute, 13th minute, 20th minute, 25th minute, 30th minute and finally the 33rd minute.
Shoals tried valiantly to stem the sweeping white jumpers and without a real gutsy display the score line would have been much higher.
All Shoals’ players tackled well and hard, and none more so than Tui Aberhama, Tom Horton and Josh Dennis, who pulled off the tackle of the game, Sam Watts and Adam Sargent.
Aaron Louden, Sargent and Keegan Stevens showed out with powerful surges into the teeth of the Avondale defence.
Best players for Shoals were Tom Horton, Josh Dennis and Adam Sargent.
Shoals move onto their fourth round match next Saturday, May 10, when they travel for the local derby clash against Kiama at Kiama Showground.
In past years Kiama has been struggling, however so far this year they are displaying outstanding form posting good early season wins.
These should be extra keen tussles as the two clubs fight it out for local superiority.
Also on next weekend are the NSW Country Junior Championships for U12s, 13s and 18s at Shoalhaven Ricoh Rugby Park.
Shoalhaven City Council and Shoals have combined to host these games over Saturday and Sunday, May 10-11.
Teams will come from all regions within NSW including Illawarra, Central Coast, Mid North Coast, Central West, Far North Coast, New England, Central North and the Hunter.
Over 500 players will compete at these championships and with their coaches, family and supporters this will be a huge event for our club and the City.
Games begin at 8.30am in this knockout format on the Saturday, and the finals will be played at 2pm on the Sunday.
On display will be the best young rugby players from regional NSW, and anyone wanting to watch future champions in action should make their way down to Ricoh Rugby Park.