Moruya Sharks kicked-off its Group 16 first grade premiership defence with an emphatic 52-24 win against Merimbula-Pambula Bulldogs at Pambula on Saturday.
Despite missing halves Jake Clarke and Joel Pietsch, unavailable due to injury, coach Tim Weyman looked to utility player Justin Bell and Aaron Brierley to fill their positions and relied heavily on the Sharks’ under 18s players Cohen McGrath and Jock McNaughton to step up.
Running into a stiff breeze in the first half, the Sharks started poorly and allowed the young and enthusiastic Bulldogs to bustle them into errors.
The Bulldogs attacked with flair and defended with vigour and it was in only the second minute when the home side skirted the Sharks’ defence to score out-wide.
Five minutes later the Bulldogs were on attack again due to a well judged 40:20.
The Bulldogs crossed again through some soft defence in the middle of the ruck and skipped to a 12-nil lead after eight minutes.
The Sharks hit back when Aaron Brierley skirted the edge of the defence before offloading to brother Caine for a four-pointer and Dennis Green’s conversion had the Sharks trailing 12-6.
Merimbula again used the breeze to its advantage and with some repeat sets were soon putting more pressure on the Shark defence.
A scoot from dummy-half led to a 18-6 lead after 20 minutes.
The Sharks finally kicked into gear and on the back of some good possession were finally able to mount some sustained attack.
Unconverted tries to Michael Weyman, Dennis Green and Caine Brierley allowed Moruya to claw back the lead.
The play of the half went to Aaron Brierley, who made a 30-metre run up the middle of the ruck, before placing a perfectly weighted chip over the fullback’s head.
Unfortunately, he was unable to regather cleanly, with what could have been a brilliant solo try going begging.
The teams went to oranges at 18-all with all of the momentum with the Sharks heading into the second stanza.
The second half plan was soon obvious with the Sharks using the breeze to camp down the Merimbula-Pambula end of the paddock.
Dillon Johnston scored a brace and Luke Jay, Green, Shane Colebrook and Caine Brierley also posted tries, while Aaron Brierley kicked 5/5 despite the wind.
The score blew out to 52-18 before Merimbula-Pambula scored late when the Sharks’ defence was caught napping by a quick tap.
Best on ground for the Sharks was Dillon Johnston, who was a handful all game for the Bulldog defence.
Johnston received the players’ player award, while Luke Jay, Shaun Staples and Aaron Brierley were outstanding in a good team performance.
Others to impress were Justin Bell filling in at half-back, Caine Brierley, who scored a hat-trick of tries and Hayden Murray. who made an impact off the bench.
The Sharks are at home for the first time in 2016 next Sunday when they take on the strong Bombala outfit in three grades.
Tries: C Brierley 3, Green 2, Johnston 2, M Weyman, Jay and Colebrook.
Goals: Dennis Green 1/4 and Aaron Brierley 5/5.