After having allowed Balmain to slip the noose and squandered the chance to go top of the NSW Cup ladder last week at home Western Suburbs were keen to get back that winning feeling against Shellharbour today at Ron Costello Oval. With memories of last year's drubbing at the same venue and the knowledge that consecutive losses could drop them down the ladder quickly Wests had come to the Illawarra determined to take the two points.
The Magpies started with far more intensity than they had last week, and both sides set about working their way into the game. Wests opened the scoring when centre Andrew Everingham intercepted a loose pass on the 50 before linking up with NSW Cup débutante Troy O'Sullivan who raced away to score. Dragons speedster Michael Lett hit back on the 20 minute mark with a try of his own. Wests would take the initiative by forcing a turnover on the first hit up from the kick off and make the Dragons pay dearly with tries to back rowers Nu Akeripa and Josh Davis in quick succession to get out to a 16-4 lead.
Just when it looked like the Magpies were going to cut open the Shellharbour defence a magnificent 40/20 kick put the Dragons on the attack and once again Lett left Black and White defenders clutching at air as he raced in to score. Shellharbour should have scored at the end of the following set when they split the Wests defence and had a no one but Fullback George Kepa to beat. With 2 players in support the pass was thrown too early and the Magpies custodian pulled off a fabulous try saving tackle to save the day. The miss would cost the home side dearly as Wests skipper Nathan Waters would score under the posts from the next set after a clever Davis chip and regather.
The Magpies were pleased to take a 22-10 lead into the sheds after having a few close calls. The coach demanded more commitment from their goal line defence in the second half and to not allow errors to creep into their game as they had last week. The side responded with a solid opening to the half and were rewarded 6 minutes in when centre Geoff Daniela made a bust and put his winger Rhys Pritchard over in the corner. Chris Corby's excellent sideline conversion had the visitors well placed to run away with the game at 28-10. Shellharbour were having none of that though and would dominate the next 25 minutes of the game. The Dragons threw caution to the wind and attacked at every opportunity. Wests were forced to dig deep in defence and turn back a passage of four consecutive sets as the Dragons short kicking game forced three straight drop outs. The Black and Whites weren't going to yield however and they held firm right up until the 70th minute when the Dragons desperate passing finally found a chink in Wests armour for Joe Vickery to score and convert.
With only a 12 point lead and 10 to go a second missed opportunity in two weeks wasn't out of the question, but the Magpies defence again forced an error from the kick off. When Shellharbour was penalised shortly after Corby calmly slotted the 2 points and the game was Wests for the keeping at 30-16. The Magpies would finish the game in fine style when Ben Falcone chipped for Davis to collect in the final minute of the game. Davis offloaded back to the Wests No.6 who then got a fine pass away for Everingham to score in the corner. Western Suburbs were forced to work hard for the win but had the game in control throughout most of the match. With other results favouring them the win has lifted the Magpies back up to 2nd place on the NSW Cup ladder and they return to Campbelltown Stadium this Saturday to take on Wentworthville with another chance to take the lead in the competition.
Best for the Magpies were skipper Nathan Waters, workaholic Front Rower Andrew Pearn, and elusive 5/8 Ben Falcone.