Butchers cement top spot with win over game De La Salle

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Thirroul have all but sewn up the Mojo Homes Illawarra Cup minor premiership after outlasting De La Salle 30-18 at Gibson Park on Saturday, leaving them a win clear at the top of the ladder with two games to go in the regular season.

It takes the Butchers to 9-1 for the year, with only a monumental upset at the hands of bottom two sides Cronulla Caringbah or Corrimal over the final two rounds possibly denying them the minor crown.

Elsewhere, Collegians overcame a spirited Canaries side 30-20 at Dapto Showground, while Wests comfortably accounted for Cronulla Caringbah 44-8 at Cronulla High.

Finals bound

Fresh off a gritty 14-12 win over Helensburgh last week, the Butchers led 22-10 at halftime in their return to their spiritual home and added a further four-pointer in a second half that finished one try apiece.

With the return of some key personnel, Jarrod Costello’s side looks to be timing its run at the finals perfectly having ground out four straight wins while undermanned since suffering its only defeat at the hands of Wests seven weeks ago.

“It was a good win in the end, we started really well,” Costello said.

“I thought we got a bit patchy at the back end there and let them back into the game, we’ve got to clean that up. We kept giving them field position, something we’ve been doing each week, but I’m really happy with the way they turned up for Dodgy (100-gamer Luke Dodge) and the way they played to skip out to that lead. It was enough in the end.

“The way we moved the footy and created some chances in good-ball, I was really pleased with that. We trained on the field for the third time this year through the week so I was happy with the way we built some combinations with the ball.

“[The minor premiership] is within reach, but we’ve still got two more efforts to get. We’ve spoken about getting up for each game so we need to go and honour that and prepare well for Cronulla Caringbah [next week].

“I’m happy with how we’re building but we got another couple of little bumps today so hopefully we don’t lose any more guys. We’ve put ourselves in a good position, but we need to keep trying to improve, clean up in a few areas and keep getting better heading into the finals.”

Early strike

The Butchers struck in the opening set of the game when Hayden Crosland reeled in his own kick that took a horror bounce for stand-in De La fullback Kobie Wilson. Wilson’s luck turned nine minutes later when he swooped on a fortuitous bounce chasing a Wyndham Peachey grubber to level up at four apiece.

Peachey spilled the ensuing kickoff cold, opening the door for Monty Raper’s 14th minute try, with Ammon Munro and Tarje Whitford getting across as the lead ballooned to 18. With the match slipping, De La found a hit-back when Peachey laid on a try for brother Lachlan Peachey with a deft kick.

It cut the margin to 12 at the break, but a try to Riley Graham seven minutes after the resumption extended the margin beyond three converted tries and put the game well in hand for the hosts. The visitors pressed hard late but could only find the one try, a long-range solo effort from Chaz Jarvis, before time ran down.

Costello still had some concerns post-game, with star fullback Wayne Bremner battling through a knee injury through most of the second half before finally succumbing prior to fulltime.

We missed the jump | Manahan

De La coach Luke Manahan dealt with his disruptions before kickoff, with fullback Jye Patterson and halfback Jake Hay late withdrawals, while an untimely COVID case saw the league newbies play with just 16 men.

“We’ve had a pretty good run the last couple of weeks trying to build our way into the semi-finals and that probably brings us back a peg,” Manahan said.

“We definitely missed the jump in the first half. We were better in the second half and managed to crawl back and be in it, but as time started to slip away we panicked a little bit. They’re a great side and they started well so it’s very hard to crawl back against a team like that.

“The fight’s there with us and we know we can do it. We had a few positional changes and what not through injury and COVID so it was tough, but it is what it is. The effort was there, we’ll just move on to next week.”

Slippery slope

They’ll lose few admirers with the effort but they face a potential banana-peel clash with Helensburgh next week, the Tigers an outside chance of unseating either De La Salle or Collies in the top four after comfortably accounting for Corrimal 42-6 on Saturday.

With Wests on the road looming for De La in the final round, Manahan said his side can’t afford to fall victim to the Tigers rear-guard action.

“Next week’s a huge one for us, we know we need to win,” Manahan said.

“[Helensburgh] have got better and better throughout the season. I think people were writing them off but I’ve said from the start they’ve always been a solid team.

“We know we need to win at least one of the [last] two. We wanted that top-two spot and it’s still not out of reach. Mathematically we can get there, but we need to turn up next week, build on a few things and get back to what was working for us.

“Hopefully we get a few of those guys back and get combinations back to where they were. We’ve got another two weeks until finals and we’re pretty confident we’ll be there, but we need to get the win next week.”

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