Tiger cubs sharpen claws
By Mitch Jenning - The Illawarra Mercury
Helensburgh gave themselves a four-point buffer atop the Illawarra Coal League ladder with a 24-10 victory over Wests at Parrish Park on Sunday.
Wests led 6-0 early on the back of a near faultless kicking display from halfback Daniel Holdsworth before the Tigers ran in four tries to seal victory in a match befitting its top-of-the-table clash billing.
With both sides battling heavy injury tolls, the big guns stood up with Holdsworth and halves partner Nathan Dureau among the best on ground for the home side, while for the Burgh, Grant Smith, Steve McCallum, Jarrod Boyle and Wayne Bremner were all outstanding.
With Jason Raper, Eamon Hillen, Chris Lewis and Blake Phillips all set to return in coming weeks, the Tigers are at very short odds to claim the minor premiership with six games remaining.
Coach Ryan Powell attributed the victory to the depth the club has built over the past two seasons.
"It probably wasn't pretty, but gutsy is a good way of putting it," Powell said.
"We talk about who we've got missing, and we've got a whole heap missing, but we put the best side we've [currently] got at Helensburgh and that side won.
"The guys that are coming in ... everyone talks about them being reserve graders but they showed today that they're first graders and they can mix it with the best.
"The guys that are coming back will have to earn their spots back."
Helensburgh will travel to Gibson Park this weekend to take on Thirroul, who defeated Dapto 28-10 on Saturday.
Powell said a strong back-up performance was vital for his side.
"[Being] Four points clear is good, I'd be lying if I said we didn't talk about it," Powell said.
"It's a little bit of a buffer but if we go out to Thirroul next week and get beat then [Saturday] was a waste of time. You don't win grand finals in July but you start working towards them."
Wests had all the early running on the back of Holdsworth's boot with the former Bulldogs and Sharks five-eighth managing two 40-20s, a forced line drop-out and a try to Mitch Porter with his first four kicks of the match.
The Tigers were lucky not to trail by more and managed to fight back through a try to Kain Ebb in the 28th minute.
Smith barged over from close range five minutes later to take an unlikely 12-6 lead to the break.
The Tigers struck first after the resumption with Azan Turoa latching on to a clever grubber from halfback Matt Riccio to extend the lead to 18-6 with 22 minutes to play. Bronx Goodwin's 65th-minute try gave Wests a sniff before a try to Scott Allen sealed the win for the Tigers.
Collegians picked up a much needed victory with an after-the-siren penalty goal delivering a 26-24 victory over Corrimal.