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The Wollongong Bulls look to have quickly bounced back from their nightmare 2004 season when they scored an impressive 20 point win up at Helensburgh on Friday night. Wollongong looked stronger on paper than the Tigers and this was reflected on the scoreboard. The recruitment of veteran Shane Wilson has been a good pickup and he gives their backline direction. Brad Veigel is a good replacement for Trevor Longbottom and the return of Sean Wessels gives their pack a good look.
Helensburgh have lost too much talent since last year, making it tough to compete, even though they have replaced them with other players. The Tigers have the bye next week and can use that time to get their combinations right.
The Dogs only confirmed what looked likely entering the match by thrashing Corrimal with a 10 try demolition job on the hapless Cougars. They have no weaknesses anywhere and had the likes of Matt Tope in reserve grade as a result. Collies will be extremely hard to beat at anytime this season. The only downer to the afternoon was their incredible lack of support at the match, anyone who didn't know would have thought Corrimal were at home.
The Cougars have suffered from the fact their lineup is virtually the same as last year and their roster has stagnated whilst everyone else has strengthened. They will be able to put it to some clubs in the premiership but need to rise in class if they are to be a genuine chance.
Dapto's win over Wests is a good indication that they will be back in contention this year. Wests had great trial form and were at home, making this a very big first up win for the Canaries. The addition of Adrian Rainey and Steve Grant has given the pack the starch they lacked last year, giving Justin Holbrook the room he needs to lead their attack.
Wests should not be too concerned in losing by such a narrow margin to Dapto, they have some players such as Jason Ferris to come back and will be in the thick of the action throughout the season.
The upset of the round was Port's win over Thirroul. Due to Port's loss of so many players, Thirroul were favourites to open with a win so this result was a great one for the Blacks. They won all three grades, making it even better for Port. Thirroul fielded a fine side and the huge Black Army will be happy to know they will be contenders again in 2005.
Thirroul will be in a bit of shock at the three grade loss, but like Wests their first grade side performed well and were in the game until the final minutes. Therefore, although it will give them a good wake-up call, they will not be overly concerned at one loss.
Collies 52 Corrimal 10
A healthy crowd dominated by Corrimal fans turned up at WIN Stadium # 2 ground to witness a match between the 2004 premiers and last year's big improvers. Unfortunately for Corrimal, Collies have improved even further and field more than one grade of quality players.
After some tough opening exchanges, Collies went up 6-0 through a converted try to Wade Forrester in the seventh minute.
The opening 15 minutes were devoid of line breaks and Collies needed to work hard to brak through again with 16 minutes gone. Gavin Clinch made an incisive run down the right flank, setting up Damian Willis in the corner. Michael Edwards converted from touch, making the score 12-0 to Collies.
The Dogs dominated the rest of the first half as Corrimal never looked like scoring. The Cougars did well to stop further tries until Damian Willis crossed again on the bell. Edwards converted for an 18-0 halftime lead.
The Cougars came out firing in the second half and almost scored off a Donny Tweddle banana kick, but were penalised for holding a Collies defender. Brian Walsh finally got Corrimal on the board with an unconverted try in the corner after 47 minutes.
Corrimal were penalised in possesion 30 metres out just after the kickoff, leading to a Josh Guyatt try off a forward pass with 50 minutes gone. The conversion made the score 24-4 to Collies. Two minutes later Ryan Smith scored a slashing solo try to make it 28-4.
Jason Dorahy capitalised on a great Jason Brown run to touch down five minutes later. The unconverted try made it 32-4 in favour of the home side.
Donny Tweddle got one back for Corrimal, crashing over for a typical try in the 60th minute. Adam Kerr's conversion made the score 32-10.
A Wes Hallam-Mann try three minutes later put Collies back on track for a big score. When Josh Guyatt bagged his second with 10 minutes left it was 44-8 as both conversions went through.
Damian Willis scored his third in the corner with five to play, making it 48-10 and Chris Barnes finished off the scoring with seconds to play with another unconverted try. This brought the fulltime score to 52-10.
Corrimal were up against a side with too much firepower. Donny Tweddle led them well and Trent Hill looked good at halfback. They had plenty of support at the game and if they had the team Collies have got, Ziems Park would be packed every home game.
Collies were devastating. They debuted some fine players and none stood out more than Jason Brown. Lee Finnerty was solid at fullback and Jason Dorahy was a danger as soon as he took the field. They have plenty of talent in reserve grade and will be tough to beat this year.
Collies 42 (Tries: Damian Willis 3, Josh Guyatt 2, Chris Barnes, Wes Hallam-Mann, Wade Forrester, Jason Dorahy, Ryan Smith; Goals: Michael Edwards 6/10) defeated Corrimal 10 (Tries: Don Tweddle, Brian Walsh; Goals: Adam Kerr 1/2)
Referee: Marcus Jennett. Touch Judges: Ryan Jackson and Stacey Walsh
Reserve Grade: Collies 42 Corrimal 22
Nathan Kennedy scored four tries in the reserve grade match, putting immediate pressure on the Dogs' first grade backline.
At WIN Stadium #2 Saturday April 2 2005. Crowd 350