Defending premiers Illawarra have maintained their place in the Intrust Super Premiership Top Four with an easy 36-8 win over an outclassed Wests Tigers in their match at WIN Stadium, Wollongong tonight.
Matthew Head’s men started the match on fire – after just ninety seconds, a Jai Field cut out pass found fullback Matt Dufty, who in turn hit winger Izaac Thompson on the chest for the powerful winger to open the scoring untouched in the corner. Shaun Nona converted for a 6-nil Illawarra lead after just three minutes.
Illawarra dominated the early exchanges to the extent that the Tigers did not get their first full set in possession until the 11th minute.
Blessed with such dominance, Illawarra doubled their lead in the seventh minute when after a double repeat set and goal line drop out, a Nona grubber kick behind the nonplussed Tigers found centre Pat Herbert who scored. Nona’s conversion got Illawarra off to a 12-nil lead.
When the Tigers finally got some football, they forced repeat sets off the back of two quick penalties in the 17th minute for a quick Jeremy Marshall-King pass out of dummy half to find Bayley Sironen who stood in a tackle to send winger Toa Mata’afa who burst through two defenders for the visitors’ first try.
Jordan Rankin missed the conversion to keep the Illawarra lead at 12-4.
Illawarra were quick to reply four minutes later when a sweeping left side backline movement saw Dufty make the extra man to find Thompson who scored his second try with an extravagant dive in the corner and a 16-4 lead to the home side.
After replacement Tigers centre Christian Yassmin was bundled into touch when trying to clear from inside his own half 11 minutes from half time, Illawarra were quick to pounce.
From the set following their scrum win, a long Nona 20 metre cut out pass found Thompson again, who carried three defenders over the line to complete his hat trick of tries in the corner. Nona again missed the conversion and Illawarra led 20-4.
A further double repeat set for Illawarra from a goal line drop out in the last two minutes of the first half saw replacement hooker Ryan Fletcher get out of dummy half from close range to send interchange forward Jacob Hind crashing over for his first try near the posts. Nona converted as the half time siren sounded to give Illawarra a commanding 26-4 lead at the break.
The home side threatened to turn the match into a rout when just three minutes into the second half a short pass from Nona found Hind again barging his way through the Tigers goal line defence for his second try. With Nona’s conversion, the match was virtually won for Illawarra with a 32-4 lead.
The match then got bogged down for the remainder of the game as the Tigers kept making errors and Illawarra’s attack dropped off a shade as they were caught a number of times in possession on the last tackle without getting to their kicking game.
After Thompson intercepted a loose Sironen pass and dashed 60 metres down his flank to set up field position, a lovely inside pass from Nona found Dufty steam into a hole at top pace against the grain to score the home side’s last try of the night. Nona’s conversion hit the upright for a 36-4 lead.
The Tigers never gave up and were rewarded for their efforts with five minutes left when a Rankin re-gathered his own grubber kick close to the Illawarra line to feed skipper Nathan Milone who scored the last try of the night. Rankin again missed the conversion to complete the handsome 36-8 victory for the home side.
Illawarra travel to the Belmore Sports Ground next Saturday for their next match against Canterbury-Bankstown, while the Tigers have another tough assignment against competition high flyers Wyong Roos at Campbelltown Stadium next Sunday at 11:45am.