TWO long-range try specials by lightweight winger Dylan Lake sparked West Lions to a 38-20 win over Gunnedah Bulldogs in their Group 4 Cup clash at Scully Park on Saturday and a win that enabled the Lions to draw level in second spot on the ladder with the Bulldogs.
Lake scored a 90m solo try in the first half which took the Lions to an 18-4 lead and then produced a 70m effort after taking a bomb to give the Lions a 10-point lead.
The little winger defused Mat Brady’s midfield bomb and then rounded the defence to dash away for a brilliant try.
Captain-cach Chris Hunt’s conversion gave the Lions a 24-14 lead and just a few minutes later second-rower Matt Lillicrap was over for his second try to extend the lead to 28-14.
When centre Sean Nean scored after a bust up the middle of the ruck, the Lions were comfortable and he then notched his own try double when he backed up a Hunt bust to take Sam Taylor’s lofted pass acrobatically and create a 24-point lead.
Farran Lamb did score a consolation try for the visitors to make it 38-20 but it was too little too late after they had looked a giant threat early in the second half when centre Jie Smith crossed to make it 18-14.
Instead of a Bulldog surge, little Lake sparked the Lions with his bombing expertise.
“Dylan’s a freak,” Hunt said.
“He makes quick people look slow.”
Hunt was extremely proud of his young side, which had four Under 18s playing or on the bench with some key first graders injured or unavailable.
“I couldn’t be any more prouder of the boys,” Hunt said.
“We lost another prop this morning.
“I had to pull them from the Under 18s.”
One was young hooker Will Chesterfield.
The 17-year-old fitness instructor at Fitness Plus thought he was going to be on the bench Saturday morning but, after playing a full game in the Under 18 loss, he started in the number nine.
Rewarded with two points in the 18s’ best and fairest, he had a solid game in his first grade debut.
“It was good fun,” the teenager, a talented spinner in cricket, said.
“I’m happy with that.
“I thought I was going to be on the bench.”
He is having this season back in rugby league after two seasons of rugby union.
Hunt said all the side “dug deep”.
“I can’t single any out,” he said.
“The defence was great – we scrambled real well.
“And the boys lifted.
“That’s what they’re about, they turn up for each other.
“In the past, West always had a big pack and some quality players but we haven’t got that size or star players.
“Everyone just works for each other.”
Backrowers Phil Beaton and Tom Hine led the way, with Hunt and his brother Scott orchestrating some good plays.
Nean continued his good return too.
Gunnedah coach Shane Rampling was hugely disappointed with his side, especially when it had clawed its way back to trail 18-14 early in the second half only to make an error from the kick-off.
“We didn’t turn up today,” he said.
“We just didn’t compete.
“We let West get on a roll, have quick play the balls.
“We were on the back foot all day and didn’t man up defensively.”
In short, it was a disaster, with some poor fifth-tackle options completing a terrible day for the Bulldogs.
“We allowed West to control the game.
“Now we’ve got North Tamworth at North Tamworth next week.”
Gunnedah prop Andrew Cameron worked hard all day and skipper Trent Hilton made some busting runs.
Jason Smith had some good charges early and Englishman Martin Day livened up things with some good runs but the Bulldogs failed to fire and could cop a flogging if they take that form into this Sunday’s clash with the Bears.