THE Gerringong Lions started the condensed 2020 Group Seven season on a solid note, downing the Berry-Shoalhaven Heads Magpies 42-14 at Berry Showground on Saturday.
The Lions set up the win with a blistering opening 20 minutes, where they ran in four unanswered tries on their way to a 30-10 half-time lead.
While the Magpies had been bolstered by a number of off-season recruits, the disrupted nature of the pre-season seemed evident as they lacked some cohesion on both sides of the ball.
It was a returning Lions' junior who got the visitors on the attack first, with pivot Tyran Wishart forcing a Berry error with a deft kick.
Jake Taylor converted for 6-nil.
That lead was soon doubled when Holland's centre partner Kayne Brennan found space down the left edge and sent half Rixon Russell on his way to the line.
Taylor's conversion made it 12-nil.
Both sides had trouble completing after Russell's try, but it was the Lions who broke out of the funk first.
Another string of second-phase play opened up space for Brennan and this time the new Lion did it all himself, as he raced away down the left edge.
Taylor added another conversion for 18-nil.
Berry seemed to have no answer for Brennan, and the former Warilla-Lake South Gorilla was soon in the action again as he cut through the Magpies' defence to send winger Joel Doosey over for the Lions' fourth try.
Taylor had no trouble with the conversion and the Lions looked well in control at 24-nil.
Possession swung to the Magpies after Doosey's try, but the home side couldn't seem to build any real pressure on the Gerringong defence.
Just as it looked like they would come away empty-handed, a deflected Billy Hayburn kick took a perfect bounce for Berry and Mahn Darley scooped the ball up to open the scoring for Berry.
Hayburn knocked over the conversion for 24-6.
The Magpies muscled up in defence after Darley's try and pinned the Lions deep in their territory and pegged the visitors back again.
New Magpie Luke Gale picked up a bouncing pass and crashed over out wide for 24-10.
Just as looked like the Magpies would take some momentum into the break, a late error gave the Lions a chance they needed and Nathan Ford found the ever-present Russell near the line for his second try.
Taylor added his fifth conversion for a 30-10 Lions' lead at the break.
The opening stage of the second half saw Berry dominate field position but again struggled to find a way to turn that into points.
The home side's cause wasn't helped when they lost their skipper and hooker Blake Dryden following a heavy collision with Brennan.
The impact of the stop-start nature of the season then began to show, as the game hit a period where neither side could build any real momentum.
It was the Lions' experience who got them out of trouble though as Ford orchestrated a clever short side raid on the last tackle that led to replacement Danny Wedd crashing over.
Taylor knocked over another conversion for 36-10.
Like most games between the neighbouring sides, there was plenty of feeling throughout and a small fracas saw returning Lions prop Tim Moore earn a trip to the sin-bin.
The Magpies made the most of the one-man advantage and grabbed their third try when Gale stormed into a hole for his second to bring the score to 36-14.
As time ticked on, it looked as if that would be the last try of the game until Brennan grabbed his second from a Winchester grubber to cap the game on the siren.
Taylor made it seven from seven with the boot to round out the score at 42-14.
For Gerringong, Ford, Brennan, Moore and Kal Collins all had strong games, while Dryden, Hayburn, Blake Phillips and Jack Cross did all they could for the Magpies.