Devils are back
Wests showed their hand as genuine premiership contenders with a comprehensive win over Helensburgh at Rex Jackson Oval on Sunday, knocking the Tigers off the top of the ladder.
Two tries each to Zac Hill and the league's leading points scorer Mitch Porter allowed the Red Devils to storm the Helensburgh fortress in the 40-4 triumph, the Tigers' first home loss this year.
It was former NRL star Jason Ryles and veteran prop Greg Reh who outgunned an uncharacteristically disorganised Tigers outfit, despite the return of halfback Eamon Hillen from the Country tour of Hawaii.
The result sets up a blockbuster clash between Wests and new league leaders Thirroul at Gibson Park on Saturday, with the Butchers now alone at the top after a 50-0 victory over Corrimal at Ziems Park on Saturday.
The win was made more impressive by the absence of key half Nathan Dureau and Devils assistant coach Mark Riddell said the club had made a concerted effort to lift ahead of matches with the two competition front runners in the final two rounds of the regular season.
"It was a really good win and we really needed it. Last time we came here, Helensburgh just completed very well, didn't give us anything at all and grinded a really good victory from us, so we knew we were going to have to work hard in the middle and we did that," Riddell said.
"We knew from the start of the year that we were going to get tested in these two games coming into the finals, so it gives us a really good idea of where we're at.
"We had a fair few injuries through the middle period of the season but we got Rylesy and Greg Reh back today and we'll have Tatts [Dureau] back next week, so we're just trying to build now heading into the finals.
"We know Helensburgh and Thirroul and Collies are all going to be up for these finals, so we've got to make sure we match them."
Wests were on the board after just five minutes through winger Jordan Harty for a 6-0 lead but the Tigers hit back five minutes later through Azan Turoa to draw close at 6-4.
It was the Tigers' last joy of the afternoon with centre Aaron Hertsch and Hill both scoring four-pointers for Wests to lead 18-4 at half-time.
Porter scored his first immediately following the break with tries to Clint Wright and Hill before Porter notched his second to complete the 40-4 rout.
It was a concerning performance for Helensburgh coach Ryan Powell just two weeks out from the finals and the Tigers will have to regroup quickly ahead of their final-round away match with Collegians, who returned to form with a 44-22 win over Dapto on Saturday.
"They had plenty to play for and could have been chasing the minor premiership but with their performance they've thrown them both away," Powell said.
"They've got to bounce back now. They're not used to this situation, so it'll be interesting to see how we turn this week around."