Western Rams hang tough in Illawarra and move clear on top of Johns Cup standings

BANG, BANG: Western fullback Tyler Colley scored twice in his side's big win over Illawarra. Photo: NICK McGRATH
BANG, BANG: Western fullback Tyler Colley scored twice in his side's big win over Illawarra. Photo: NICK McGRATH

Western coach Kurt Hancock isn’t beating around the bush with his Andrew Johns Cup outfit this season.

After guiding the Rams to the under 16s country championship crown in 2017, the experienced mentor knows this year’s group is every bit as good as last year’s champions.

His biggest challenge is ensuring the 2018 Rams believe it too.

And he says, after Western defended its way to an impressive 30-26 road victory over the previously unbeaten Illawarra South Coast Dragons on Saturday in round three of the Johns Cup, the penny is slowly dropping.

“We’ve got an interesting side. It’s full of speed and mobility,” Hancock said.

“We’ve got to try and get the young fellas to believe in themselves and their defence. I still don’t think anyone can score as many points as us, on our day.”

Speedy fullback Tyler Colley crossed twice and booted three goals in the four-point victory – Western’s toughest win of the tournament so far after 52-0 and 24-4 wins over Riverina and Penrith respectively in the opening two rounds of the Johns Cup.

The Rams were starved of possession by the impressive Dragons line-up, but a stoic defensive effort enabled the visiting Western line-up to secure a third win in as many starts in 2018.

“We thought they were a handy team and the game proved that,” Hancock added.

“It wasn’t the performance we’re looking for, but defensively we found a way to get through those tough periods – it’s good signs.”

Hooker Josh Dominello left the field mid-way through the first half with a head knock and didn’t return.

Hancock said the Orange CYMS rake is a slight chance to be back for Saturday’s fourth round clash with Monaro, but Western will likely tread cautiously with his return.

Western tackles Monaro at Roberts Park, Harden in round four next Saturday, March 17.

A win in the penultimate round will secure Western a place in the southern pool’s top two and a chance at defending the under 16s country championship crown the Rams won in 2017.

  • WESTERN RAMS 30 (T Colley 2, C Hollman, M Pollack, N Ryan tries; T Colley 3, N Griffiths 2 goals) def ILLAWARRA SOUTH COAST 26 (J Wolhar 2, J Patterson, J Goodchilds, C Askew tries; J Patterson 2, I Morris goal)