By Jake Bull
The Illawarra Steelers Junior Representative sides started their season in a positive fashion against Souths Sydney Rabbitohs at WIN Stadium, Wollongong on Saturday.
A draw for the Harold Matthews (U16) and a win for the SG Ball side (U18) meant that they head into the season on the right foot.
The Harold Matthews teams were first on the field and it was a tight contest for the opening ten minutes.
However, in the 15th minute, an error from the Steelers close to the line was capitalised on by Souths who scored through Bobby Nader for a 4-0 lead.
Three minutes later and the Rabbitohs were in again.
The kick-off from the opening try went dead and on the resulting set dummy-half Josh Cook burrowed over.
The conversion from Dean Hawkins was unsuccessful as the visitors eventually went into the break with an 8-0 lead.
Not long after half-time the Steelers found their groove through halfback Tyler Moon.
Receiving the ball close to the line he took the defence on and found the try-line to reduce the gap to 8-4.
In the 40th minute the home side drew level when a cut out pass found Nicholas Zappia who streaked down the sideline to score out wide.
With 20 minutes remaining the score read 8-all.
Defence close to the line was being tested all game as both teams showed great signs in attack.
It was the visitors who scored next when Cook, who scored earlier in the game, went from dummy-half to score under the posts for his second try.
Hawkins made the easy conversion for a 14-8 lead.
With five minutes remaining the Steelers were rewarded for their hard work when one of the players of the game Tyler Moon grubbered towards the in-goal and regathered to score under the posts.
Zac Lomax made sure of the conversion as the game ended 14-all as both teams left with one competition point.
With the clouds starting to roll over and the rain only a short time away, the SG Ball teams kicked off their round one clash.
Unlike the first game, it only took two minutes for the first try.
An error from the first set by the visitors was pounced on by Illawarra who spread the ball to captain Reuben Garrick to score and give his side a 4-0 lead.
In the 10th minute, Jai Field extended the home sides lead when he darted away to score.
Another missed conversion meant the Steelers led 8-0.
The momentum soon began to change and in the 16th minute the Rabbitohs scored out wide through winger Johnathan Tufuga.
Centre Jade Anderson converted to bring them back into the game at 8-6.
Two more tries for Souths to Dylan O’Connor and Kobi Hookey along with conversions from Anderson meant the visitors went into the break with an 18-8 lead.
The second half started more brightly for the home side when backrower Max Bailey caught a grubber to score.
Patrick Herbert converted his first of the afternoon to reduce Souths lead to 18-14.
It was back-to-back for the Steelers when in the 48th minute Bailey White used his speed and power to score.
Herbert had found his range as Illawarra took the lead at 20-18.
In the 52nd minute a second try to Reuben Garrick after an inside ball from Tristan Sailor put the team further ahead.
Another conversion from Herbert gave the home side a 26-18 lead.
A field goal from a Luke Jurd and a penalty goal to Herbert extended the lead to 11 points before a late consolation try to Souths lock Cameron Murray saw the game end 29-24 to the home side.
Illawarra Steelers 14 Tries: Moon (2), Zappia. Goals: Lomax (1/3).
Souths Sydney Rabbitohs 14 Tries: Nader, Cook (2). Goals: Hawkins (1/3).
Illawarra Steelers 29 Tries: Garrick (2), Field, Bailey, White. Goals: Herbert (4/5) Field (0/1) Field Goals: Jurd (1/1).
Souths Sydney Rabbitohs 24 Tries: Tufuga, O’Connor, Hookey, Murray. Goals: Anderson (4/4).