THE Shoalhaven ExServicemen's/Printer Corp first grade side travelled to Wollongong for their second round clash with Vikings.
The clubs have had some stirring battles over the seasons and while Shoals put up a spirited effort Vikings proved too balanced and seasoned in a hard fought game.
Vikings led 17-5 at half-time and took the game 36-12, running in six tries to Shoals’ two.
Vikings lie fourth on the ladder with five wins from their eight games, with Shoals well down.
Shoals again needed to make changes to the side with Sam Watts moving to five-eighth to replace Josh Dennis, while Tom Horton made a welcome return as number eight.
Horton, despite his weeks of lay off through injury, had an outstanding game in attack and defence.
His defensive effort was matched by Tui Aberhama, who despite a full second grade game, came on as an early replacement and yet again gave another wholehearted effort.
Steve Holmes at fullback had plenty of work to do in trying conditions and did well.
With a stiff southerly favouring their opponents in the first half, Vikings went about the task of piling on points with some enthusiasm.
However Shoals’ defence proved resilient and kept them at bay for the first 15 minutes.
Vikings had most of the territory and possession in this time but could not get through the tigerish defence.
James Smith and Mitch Hardy crashed any ball carrying Vikings forward with such vigour that they dominated play in tight.
Just when Shoals looked to be getting into their stride, Vikings struck with a long range try set up by their quick stepping five-eighth and flying winger. Not to be outdone, Shoals built up a heads of steam and roared into Vikings’ 22 territory.
It was not long before the ball was presented to James Smith, who crashed over for his team’s first try.
The game was hard and fast from there although the windy conditions began to cause errors in the handling.
Vikings were next to score when they created space out wide for their fullback to race away for a converted try.
From there the game was exceptionally tight with Shoals using their powerful forwards to pound their way up the field, while Vikings were keen to unleash their backline at every opportunity.
It was not until close to the half-time whistle that Vikings went in for their third try through a good break by their fullback.
A bitterly cold westerly wind blew in during the second half bringing sleet to the ground and icicles began to form on Vikings’ tall score board.
The players warded off the cold with some bright play while the hardy spectators took shelter in the club house.
Vikings played smart rugby and kept the scoreline mounting using their forwards to break Shoals’ in-close defence and then unleashing their back line.
Shoals did camp for quite a while inside Vikings’ half but they could not make any vital breaks.
Vikings took seven minutes to open their score book into the second half, but Shoals did not cede any further points until the 35th minute of the half.
Shoals in turn mounted significant pressure on Vikings’ line for 10 minutes following Vikings’ first try and finally gained a try to their quicksilver halfback who dashed over near the posts.
Watts’ conversion sailed through to end his side’s scoring for the afternoon. Vikings finished off the game with a runaway try in the last minute to notch up a solid if not finally convincing win.
This was a good game of rugby to watch and no doubt be part of despite the deteriorating conditions.
Shoals played a lot better in this game than in some earlier matches which should set them up for some of their later matches.
Best players for Shoals were James Smith, Dom Whittingham and Mitch Hardy.
Shoals return to Ricoh Rugby Park next Saturday for their game against Shamrocks then travel to Avondale on Saturday, July 12.
Shoals beaten late in the match
THE Coffee Fix/Cookes Tyre Service Shoalhaven second grade has played well in patches this season and again showed touches of high class rugby in an exciting clash with second placed Vikings on Saturday.
Shoals scored three tries in the first half to Vikings’ single try and went to oranges leading 22-7.
An upset seemed most likely.
But Vikings magically restored themselves at the break.
They came out with a rush and a roar to completely dominate the second half scoring 31 points to Shoals’ five points.
It was a complete turnaround in fortunes and came on the back of some dazzling rugby from the home side.
All up Vikings ran in six tries while Shoals notched up four of their own. Vikings took the game through this spirited second half display by 38 points to 27.
The first few minutes of the game was hard and fast with both teams hurling the ball about with fearless abandon.
At the seven minute mark Vikings went hard on attack out wide but spilled the ball in the centres.
Shoals’ very fine winger, Matt Hinkley, pounced on the rolling ball and put on the after burners.
He outpaced the racing defence to score a try near the posts.
Vikings took play deep into Shoals’ half from the restart and began to look ominous.
Shoals scrambled the ball from a ruck but the clearing kick was charged down and Vikings pounced on the rolling ball to score a lucky try.
The rest of the half was pretty much all in Shoals’ favour.
The forwards played well and secured the ball for long periods of time.
Tui Aberhama and Kial Killgallon were in it up to their ears while burly Tom Aney made good ground with his charging runs.
Shoals gained three points from a penalty goal at the 15 minute mark and went in for two more tries at the 22nd minute and 31st minutes to race to a 22-7 lead which they took to the break.
It was a much different game in the second half with Vikings hardly giving an inch to Shoals.
They scored a good try after just two minutes then others at the eight minute, 20 minute, 26th minute and 31st minute marks.
They converted most of these tries to turn the half-time deficit into a winning break of 38-22.
Shoals came back near the end to run in their fourth try of the game however the bird had flown.
Best players for Shoals were Tui Aberhama, Matt Hinkley and Mark Sproule.