The Shoalhaven Ex Servicemen’s Shoals’ 1st grade team journeyed over the mountains to play Bowral on Saturday. The Bowral club has turned the corner from the doldrums of a few years back with its 3 grades sitting inside the top 4 and well on the way to the finals.
Shoals generally find this day trip a bit difficult and in losing all three grades it proved to yet again be the case. Bowral were sitting in second place on the ladder in 1st grade while Shoals needed to win to keep their season alive.
Shoals took to the field with a number of changes to the team with Matt Spresser moving to the centres to partner Jimmy Hendrix, Angus Maddinson moving in to five-eighth while Clarke Chancellor played as break away and gave another wholehearted effort. However against a slick outfit like Bowral a lack of cohesion proved deadly.
Bowral outplayed Shoals in a fast and open game and ruthlessly exploited their power, pace and precision to score seven tries to two and win 41-10. Bowral had almost constant possession and while Shoals tackled well and often, they could not keep the scoreboard from ticking over.
Bowral led 17-0 at the break and ran this out to 34-0 before Shoals finally grabbed a couple of tries, to Keiran Brandon, near the end. Bowral finished off with a final try right on the bell.
Bowral’s backline was constantly fed quality possession and used it to advantage. Their wingers are fast and powerful runners and they displayed all these skills in racing in five of the seven tries. The windy conditions made goal kicking difficult otherwise the score might have been higher.
Shoals made quite a few attacking raids through the Brandon brothers but unlike last week the defence proved pretty impregnable. Mark Brandon several times used his pace to beat the front line defenders but was well caught by the cover. Steve was closely marked and only rarely was he able to exploit his superb attacking skills. Tom Horton played himself to a standstill as he tackled player after player.
Shoals have a weekend off next Saturday and return to Rugby Park for their 2nd round encounter with top of the table Avondale on Saturday, August 18. They play Camden in away game to finish off the regular season matches.
Shoals had climbed to 3rd place on the ladder with some great wins in recent weeks. However the table is bunched and their 51-10 loss to Bowral slips them back to 6th place. Bowral led 34-0 at the break and the game had well and truly slipped away by that stage. There are however only a couple of points separating 3rd and 6th spot so Shoals remain in the running for a finals spot.
Shoals had another tough game against a surging Bowral team. Always hard to beat at their home ground they outlasted Shoals to win 20-10 after being nil all at the break. Bowral went ahead 13-5 in the second half and Shoals clawed back to be just 3 points adrift with 10 minutes to go. Bowral wrapped up the match with a fine team try close to the end. Still Shoals sit well clear atop the ladder and will be certain finalists again this year.