Collegians have secured second spot on the Illawarra Rugby League ladder with a comprehensive 28-14 win over the Western Suburbs Red Devils at Collegians Sports Complex on Saturday.

The Collie Dogs’ victory sets up a highly anticipated clash with Minor Premiers De La Salle Caringbah in the Major Semi Final, with the winner going through to the Grand Final at WIN Stadium in three weeks’ time.

Collegians Lock Jarrod Thompson said the win was “a huge boost of confidence” for his side, as they look to win their third successive title in 2023.

“It’s always tough versus Wests, especially at the back end of the year when so much is on the line,” he said.

“To get the win is a real credit to us and our belief.

When asked about the winning formula from Saturday and how that can be replicated in the playoffs, Thompson spoke of the importance of everyone in the team fulfilling their role and performing in effort areas.

“I think we played just a really wholesome game,” he said.  

“Everyone did their job, and you could tell straight away everyone lifted to the next level, which is what you want as you go into the back end of the year.

“You can lose a few games throughout the year, but at the back end you want to be hitting your stride so to speak. 

“There’s only a couple of games left and you want to be playing your perfect games at the back end of the year, which is what I think we were doing.” 

Thompson also spoke of the competitiveness of the league in 2023, which remains a wide open title race with fellow finalists De La Salle, Wests and Thirroul all capable of making a title run. 

“I think the thing with the season this year is that everyone’s been knocking off everyone, which is really good to see,” Thompson said. 

“De La Salle are the ones to look out for, they’re the big title contenders. 

“And they’ve deserved every bit of it, they’ve worked hard for where they’ve got so far, so we’ve got to give them the respect they’re due. 

“I think we’ve just got to do what works for us and everything else takes care of itself on the weekend.”

For Wests, the loss sees them finish third, and facing a sudden-death encounter with Thirroul to remain in the competition. 

Devils halfback Justin Rodrigues said that Collegians “just dominated with the football” in Saturday’s encounter. 

“We didn’t aim up as much as we should’ve,” he said. 

“Their middle [forwards] won up front, Josh Dowel and Thommo [Jarrod Thompson] get their sets off to a good start. 

“Their spine and their engine room are what we have to contain if we play them again [in finals].” 

Rodrigues said that the club’s lean run to finish the season after starting so well has left the squad searching for answers heading into finals. 

“We were nine from nine to start the year, with one draw, then we lost five of our next seven,” he said.

“In all honesty, we’re trying to find the answers ourselves. 

“A couple of effort areas have let us down, [and] being two percent off here and there makes a difference. 

“It’s not a position we find ourselves in at the Wests Devils, we usually only drop 2 or 3 games a year.” 

Finals action in the Illawarra Rugby League begins this weekend with a double header at Collegians Sports Complex, where Wests face Thirroul in the Elimination Semi Final, followed by the aforementioned clash between De La Salle and Collegians.