Ilawarra Mercury By MITCH JENNINGS May 24, 2015
With a host of stars on the sideline, Helensburgh still delivered a 26-18 victory over Thirroul in a bruising northern derby at Rex Jackson Oval.
A three-try blitz in the 10 minutes before half-time was instrumental in the victory but didn’t tell the full story of a tough first-half grind with scores locked at 0-0 after 29 minutes.
The Tigers were without fullback Jason Raper, 2014 Paul McGregor Medal winner Blake Phillips and Country halfback Eamon Hillen among other withdrawals but did enough with the game on the line.
Wayne Bremner, who shifted to fullback to cover for Raper, and Tom Carr, who came on to the wing, both picked up doubles and earned praise from coach Ryan Powell.
“The personnel changes were massive,” Powell said.
“It’s hard to cover guys like Raper and Blake Phillips and all those guys but we’ve got guys sitting there waiting for an opportunity and when you give guys an opportunity normally they come through.”
The Tigers ran in five tries but Powell credited their defence, particularly in the face of a Butchers attacking onslaught early in the match.
“They had back-to-back sets and they’re a good attacking side,” he said.
“In the second half I thought we took some silly options and put ourselves on the back foot and made things harder than needed but credit to the guys, they got the job done.”
The Butchers – who also had some notable injury omissions – clawed their way back from a 22-6 down to draw within four points late in the match. They had most of the early running with Trent Waterhouse denied twice by desperate goal-line defence.
The match turned when Tigers back-rower Chris Lewis crossed after a favourable kick deflection fell into his hands in the 30th minute. Lewis crossed again just minutes later but was stripped of the ball with Bremner on hand to collect the scraps and take a 12-0 lead. Carr scored his first try in the moments before the break to take a 16-0 lead to the sheds.
The Butchers made quick work of cutting the deficit after the break with Luke Dodge scoring seven minutes after the resumption. Bremner’s second try midway through the half will be a contender for try of the year after the ball passed through several sets of hands to push the lead out to 22-6. A close-range effort from Sam Coster cut the lead to 22-12 before Waterhouse crossed late in the match to set up a grandstand finish at 22-18 before Carr’s second try.