THE Gerringong Lions have continued their strong start to the 2019 Group Seven season with a 36-10 dismantling of the Kiama Knights at Kiama Showground on Sunday.
The Lions ran in eight tries to two and could have had a much more comfortable win, however the strong breeze that buffeted the ground all day played havoc with the normally reliable boots of Jake Taylor and Joel Roberts.
While the win is an important early season one for the Lions and also gives them bragging rights for now over their local rivals, it yet come at a cost with Roberts, David Catterall, Toby Gumley-Quine and Nathan Ford all forced from the field due to injury.
It was the Lions who opened the scoring inside the first 10 minutes when centre Matt Winchester swooped on Kiama error and touched down in the corner for 4-nil.
That lead would then soon double as Harry Phillips found spaces on the right touchline and raced away before sending Catterall over.
With Gerringong looking to take the ascendancy, Kiama's Cam Vazzoler turned momentum to the home side with a well-timed 40/20.
The Knights made the most of the opportunity when Dylan Morris burrowed over from dummy-half in the ensuing set.
Vazzoler's conversion bought the score to 8-6.
The Knights then looked like they might jump to the lead after a kick in behind the line caught Gerringong short, but centre Callan Thistlethwaite spilt the ball with the line open.
That proved to be a turning point, as the possession swung to visitors and they made the Knights pay.
Helped up-field by some poor Kiama discipline, Winchester soon had his second after a Rixon Russell cross-field kick ended up in Taylor's hands who sent the centre over out wide.
The Lions then made a meal of the following kick-off, but it mattered for little as Roberts plucked a long ball from the air and raced 50 metres to score.
Gerringong then soon found themselves again attacking the Knights' line and a decision to run the ball on the fifth paid off.
Russell found Corey Mulhall on the right fringe and the five-eighth had enough room to make it 20-6.
The Lions weren't done for the half though and crossed just before the half-time bell.
Roberts picked up a loose ball and had the strength to hold up the Kiama cover defence before finding a flying Phillips who raced away.
Taylor, much to the delight of the vocal Gerringong supporters, added the Lions' first goal of the game and the visitors led 26-6 at the break.
The opening stages of the second half saw both sides share possession, however poor handling on both sides of the ball meant there was little in the way of attacking opportunities.
That did change though and it looked like the Knights might find a way to work their way back into the match.
The home side had consecutive sets on the Lions' line and went close on a number of occasions, but couldn't find a way to break the Gerringong defence.
After that spirited showing in defence, the Lions then put the game to bed.
With the breeze at their back and some determined running from their outside backs, they easily marched up-field.
Again choosing to run the ball on the fifth, the ball found it's way into the hands of prop Alexander Weir who caught Kiama back-pedalling and crashed over.
Taylor's second conversion of the day put the Lions ahead 32-16 with 25 minutes remaining.
Winchester then completed his hat-trick as the Lions again caught Kiama out by running the ball on the fifth and the Lions led 36-6.
The Lions then played out the final 15 minutes with no fit players on the bench after Ford limped off, but they continued to hold Kiama out.
The Knights would get a consolation try just prior to full-time when lock Tom Angel pounced on a kick left to bounce and rounded out the score at 36-10.
The Lions' pack, all forced to play big minutes due to injuries, laid the platform for the win, while Vazzoler, Keiran Poole and Matt Gladman did all they could for Kiama.