Kiama’s Matt Gladman takes a heavy hit during his side’s 58-4 loss to Albion Park-Oak Flats in yesterday’s qualifying semifinal. The Eagles now face unbeaten minor premiers Gerringong. Picture: GREG TOTMAN Swooped: Kiama’s Matt Gladman takes a heavy hit during his side’s 58-4 loss to Albion Park-Oak Flats in yesterday’s qualifying semifinal. The Eagles now face unbeaten minor premiers Gerringong. Picture: GREG TOTMAN
ALBION Park-Oak Flats sent Kiama back to the drawing board with a punishing 58-4 rout in yesterday’s qualifying semi-final at Centenary Field.
Seeking revenge after a surprise round 15 home loss to the Knights, the Eagles put the visitors to the sword with a clinical 10-try blitz to set up a major semi-final duel with unbeaten minor premiers Gerringong.
“Gerringong haven’t lost a game all year so it’ll be interesting to see how we go down there,” Eagles captain-coach Jason Hooper said.
“At least we get a crack at it.”
Veteran centre Sean Jenkins got the ball rolling for the home team in the 15th minute with the first of his three tries.
The Knights hit back with a try in the corner but would never trouble the scorekeeper again.
Matt Carroll went over for the Eagles, followed by Jenkins again for an 18-4 half-time lead.
The writing was on the wall for Kiama when Jenkins completed his hat-trick early in the second half.
Matt Stone grabbed two tries, while Hooper, Chris Daniels, Matt Jarrett and Gary Breakspear all finished with a try apiece.
Carroll booted nine goals for a personal haul of 22 points.
“It’s the first time we’ve put back-to-back halves together, especially defensively,” Hooper said.
“Plenty of times this year we’ve played good for 40 and then really poor for the second 40. That was a really good 80 minutes today so hopefully we’ve turned the corner.
“At half-time I was more concerned with our defence, just making sure everyone stayed switched on. I was really pleased with the second half and the way we worked for each other on the inside and scrambled well.
“If you want to win a comp you have to defend well, and it was massive today.”
Hooper said the Eagles were determined to stop the Knights from springing another upset.
“We knew they’d come here with confidence after the way they beat us last time,” he said.
“They’re a good side and they deserve to be up here, but we played really well today.”
Despite losing twice to Gerringong during the season, Albion Park like their chances in Sunday’s major semi-final.
“They’re not unbeatable, but they haven’t lost a game so they’re obviously going to be confident,” Hooper said.
“We just have to go down there and look after ourselves and try and improve again.
“Our goal is to get in the grand final and we’ve given ourselves a chance to get in there.
“We’ll have to be really good defensively. We’ll see what happens.”
The only sour note for the Eagles yesterday was an ankle injury to Gavin Jarrett.
Kiama were making a rare finals appearance and looked promising over the first 20 minutes.
But they fell apart in the second half and are now facing a sudden-death minor semi-final against rejuvenated Warilla.
“They were at full strength today and the Park being the Park, they were always going to bounce back,” Knights captain Jade Lucas said.
“The scoreline’s disappointing, but we just have to regroup and bounce back next week.
“We’ve done it all year, got beat and bounced back. That’s all we can do. We’ll see what sort of character we’ve got in the ranks.
“Luckily enough we got ourselves into the top three and we get two cracks at it.”
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