Thirroul prop Jack Noble says his side need to find another gear against Collegians this week. Picture: Sylvia Liber.
Story from Illawarra Mercury by: Mitch Jennings
Jarrod Costello’s side reclaimed the competition lead last week with a convincing win over Berkeley after Dapto handed previously undefeated Wests a shock loss at Parrish Park.
It sets up a first versus third clash at Collegians Sports Centre and Noble says his side are keen to show they don’t need any favours to be the competition’s top dogs.
“I think it’s more exciting than anything else, everyone’s just super keen,” Noble said.
“Most people would say us Collies and Wests are the benchmark at the moment so we’re always up for games like this to test our ability.
“We know it’s an important game, Jacko [Costello] will preach all the time how important it is, but we’re going to get up for games like this anyway. We want to prove we are who people were saying we were at the start of the year.
“We haven’t really put an 80-minute performance in yet so, once we tick a few more boxes, we’re very confident in our ability and what we can do.
“We just haven’t put that 80 minutes together yet so that’s what we’ll be looking to do coming into the back end of the season.”
Both sides will head into the showdown in good form, with the Butchers running in 10 tries in a 54-20 win over Berkeley. Collies also finished convincing 32-4 winners over Helensburgh.
The clash is likely to have huge bearing on the race for a top-two finish but Noble said the Devils surprise loss to Dapto was a reminder that no side can afford to drop their guard.
“That was a huge upset there but that’s the way rugby league is, you’ve got to turn up to each and every game,” he said.
“I thought the last week was a good outing for us. When we play those sort of games the talk is always that if they come out, get a bit of confidence and a bit of a roll on it could go either way.
“We’re very conscious going into it that we need to start fast and start hard. I thought our first half was really good, we completed really highly, our second was a bit of a different story.
“We slowed down and took our foot off the gas a little bit and let in a few tries. Jacko wasn’t real happy with us so we know we need to be a lot better this week.”
The Butchers came up short in their last outing against a top-two rival, going down 18-4 to Wests at Gibson Park in round seven.
They also just edged out the Dogs at home in round one and Noble said his side need to find another gear in big games over the second half of the season.
“To be honest we were pretty lucky to win that game [in round one],” Noble said.
“We both probably didn’t play to our full ability being round one but we can take some confidence away from it.
“We had a lot of dropped ball and a lot of silly mistakes we haven’t been making the past couple of weeks so I think it’s going to be a real quality game.”
COLLEGIANS coach Nathan Fien has made no secret of his side’s top-two ambitions and says his side can’t afford to 0-2 against any side if they want to figure in that race.
“In a comp when you only play everyone twice you can’t afford to drop two against any side if you want to get into that top two which is everyone’s goal,” Fien said.
“It’s an important one in the context of the season and Thirroul did get us last time. A few things went against us but, are we a better side now – I think we are. They’re much better now as well.
Thirroul’s Thirroul, they’re always a tough opposition whether they’re at Gibson Park or wherever. As far as we’re concerned it’s about us.
“Defensively if we can put on a performance like we have done throughout then year we’ll give ourselves a chance but we need to be a lot better with the footy.”