WARILLA-Lake South has rebounded from the previous round’s shock Group 7 Rugby League loss, but somewhat unexpectedly had to work hard for the two competition points on Saturday.
The Gorillas, whose undefeated run in 2014 was ended the week prior by Albion Park-Oak Flats, narrowly downed spirited cellar-dwellers Port Kembla 16-12 at Noel Mulligan Oval.
The visitors, minus several regular first-graders, trailed 6-nil at the break and took nearly an hour of the contest to register their first points.
However, a late flurry had them run out four-tries-to-two victors.
Veteran Port skipper Mark Simon’s nous netted the home side first points in just the third minute.
His grubber-kick hit the post and bounced straight into the arms of pivot Josh Maude.
Simon converted for 6-nil, but there would be no further addition to the scoreboard for the next 50 minutes.
The Gorillas’ attack lacked its typical fluency throughout the first stanza, a series of uncharacteristic handling errors and piggy-back penalties conceded ensuring they were unable to get across the stripe.
However, their defence held firm as the Blacks peppered their goal-line on more than one occasion, although Port were perhaps guilty of trying a little too hard while in possession.
Warilla were again on the back foot shortly after the resumption when Chad Lisch was sin-binned for a professional foul.
Simon’s ensuing penalty goal attempt was unsuccessful, but the home team eventually reaped the rewards of the one-man advantage when the halfback successfully attempted a chip and chase inside his own half, before backing up to touch down under the posts.
The Gorillas’ passes finally began to stick though, and the proverbial dam burst five minutes later when a short ball meant Blake Colgan barged over from close range for a soft try, and 12-4.
Following Mark Walsh’s line break, centre Tyson Brown displayed great hands and strength to cross in the corner.
The conversion attempt was again waved away, but the visitors possessed all the momentum, their forwards rolling downfield with ease against a tiring Blacks outfit.
Keiran Rankmore was too powerful for the defence to halt, levelling the scores.
It took them until the 74th minute to gain the lead for the first time, but Warilla’s right-edge attack again proved problematic for the Port defence.
Slick passing and Brown’s clever lead-up work sent winger Jarryd Pepper over in the corner for the match-winner.
Brown, Rankmore, Walsh and Luke Roberts were the standouts for Warilla, while Simon, Josh Edwards, Kaine Edwards and Corey Honan were Port Kembla’s best.