WARILLA-Lake South’s undefeated record in the Group 7 Rugby League competition remains intact, after a hard-fought 16-8 win over Shellharbour City on Saturday.
The Gorillas led 8-4 at the oranges during the Ron Costello Oval fixture, which pitted the group’s two top-placed sides against one another.
The Sharks were minus ex-NRL star Bronx Goodwin, injured during the previous night’s training session, but were bolstered by returning fullback Ian Catania.
Meanwhile, Warilla were missing inspirational prop and leader Andrew Diomei.
It was also a difficult day for the respective goal-kickers, all six tries going unconverted.
Battles between these traditional rivals are always physical affairs, and this didn’t disappoint.
To borrow a line from late wrestling announcer Gordon Solie, the early exchanges were akin to a game of human chess, both teams jockeying for position.
Bruising tackling and some ambitious, albeit not crisply executed attack kept the crowd entertained, but didn’t translate to the scoreboard.
The visitors ended the stalemate in the 18th minute, dynamic lead-up work enabling Tyson Brown to feed the ball to Jarryd Pepper.
The Gorillas soon paid for a turnover deep inside their own half, Catania displaying elusiveness from close range to level the scores.
Warilla went to the sheds with the advantage when they swiftly spread it to the left edge, a slick series of passes finished off by Blake Colgan.
The home supporters were still polishing off their half-time pies when the Gorillas nabbed a great team four-pointer.
Dane Corran’s scheming run, followed up by pivot Jesse Dee, eventually reached winger Chad Lisch, who had too much speed for the cover defence.
Justin Rodrigues’s clever show-and-go cut the deficit to four points with half an hour remaining.
The visitors appeared largely in control of the contest, but couldn’t quite put their opponents away, and both outfits rued missed opportunities.
The ascendancy eventually swung Shellharbour’s way and with ten minutes left, peppered the opposition goal-line.
They were unable to breach Warilla’s sturdy defence, which spurred the visitors on as Brown soon scored the match-winner.
The Gorillas, with last year’s heart-breaking one-point grand final loss still fresh in their collective memories are the team to beat again this season.
The loss was just the Sharks’ second of 2014, both at the hands of Warilla.
Shellharbour will be heartened by their efforts though, and will also be amongst it when the whips are cracking at season’s end.
Damien Paulissen, Joel Skeates, Mark Walsh and Luke Watts were the standouts for the Gorillas, while Harold Snell, Craig Stapleton, Rodrigues and Catania were the best for Shellharbour.