THE Gerringong Lions have taken an important step towards securing a top two finish on the Group 7 First Grade ladder after downing the Kiama Knights 32-22 at Michael Cronin Oval on Saturday afternoon.
In front of a large crowd, the two local rivals turned on a highly entertaining performance in a game that could go a long way to determining the make-up of the top five.
It was a dream start for the home side, with their first points coming in the opening minutes.
Playmaker Brad Davidson cut through the Kiama line and linked up with rookie centre Toby Gumley-Quine who scored under the posts.
Rixon Russell converted for a 6-nil Gerringong lead.
A 40/20 from Nathan Ford soon had the Lions on the attack again and they made the most of the opportunity through Michael Brown.
The backrower crossed on the left fringe and Gerringong’s lead was out to 10 in as many minutes.
Just as things were looking grim for Kiama, momentum turned to the visitors.
A run of possession saw them camped on the Lions line and they soon hit back.
Cameron Cornell plucked a pin-point kick from Cameron Vazzoler out of the air and touched down.
Vazzoler added the conversion to bring the score to 10-6.
Kiama continued to dominate possession after Cornell’s try and they soon found themselves attacking the Lions’ line once again.
This time they sent the ball to the right and some slick passing allowed Jay Delaney to cross in the corner and level the scores.
Following Delaney’s try, the Lions managed to work their way back in tot the game and looked to have regained the lead through Joel Doosey, but the Gerringong winger lost the ball over the line.
Doosey didn’t have to wait long to make up for it though and after juggling a pass from Gumley-Quine he dived over in the corner to give Gerringong the lead at 14-10 at the break.
There was plenty of feeling to start the second half, with the opening 10 minutes in particular featuring some heavy defence from both sides.
Both sides were also guilty of some poor handling and as a result try-scoring opportunities went begging.
It was the Lions who clicked in to gear first though, thanks in large part to Russell.
The Gerringong half split the defence to put Gerringong deep into Kiama territory.
He then found space on the right edge and sent Corey Mulhall crashing over the line. Mulhall converted his own try and Gerringong had their 10-point lead back.
That lead was soon extended, this time thanks to some individual brilliance from Ford.
The Gerringong hooker produced a one-on-one strip and left Kiama stunned as he raced 70 metres to score under the posts.
Mulhall’s conversion pushed the lead out to 26-10 with just under 20 remaining.
As the game looked to be slipping away from them, Kiama again managed to get their way back into the contest.
An ill-timed penalty on the last tackle by Gerringong gave the Knights a prime opportunity and they capitalised through Tom Atkins.
The Kiama fullback crossed on to the right of the posts after a set play. Vazzoler converted to put the score at 26-16.
Any Kiama hop of a comeback was soon extinguished though when Gerringong again crossed under the posts.
This time it was replacement Lloyd Bowen who managed to get the ball down despite the attention of a number of Kiama defenders.
Mulhall again converted for 32-16.
It looked like the score would remain that way until Kiama scored a late consolation try when Josh Toohey raced away in the dying stages.
Vazzoler again converted to round out the score at 32-22.
For Gerringong, Davidson, Russell and Ford all stood out, while Vazzoler, Atkins and Cameron Whittaker were Kiama’s best.