Aaron Schoupp’s first-half hat-trick has powered the Illawarra Steelers to a 54-16 win over the West Coast Pirates in their SG Ball Cup Round 4 fixture at Ken Allen Field on Saturday.
Despite a strong finish where they scored the final two tries of the game, the Pirates slip to 0-4 on the season to remain bottom of the standings.
“We lost the game in the middle so that’s something we need to work on,” Pirates Coach Daniel Manning said.
“We put in a great finish to score two tries in the last ten minutes.”
The Pirates suffered a setback before kickoff with captain Tyler Hunt ruled out with a back injury, and the 18-year-old fullback’s absence was felt as the Steelers got on the board after just two minutes.
After showing signs of improvement in their previous two games, the Pirates hit back immediately to get themselves on the board in the fifth minute after Bowman Stein touched down.
The try was Stein’s third of the season as he bundled over from close range.
Sensing an opportunity to cause an upset, the Pirates piled on the pressure in the first ten minutes before Trent Wedding’s creative chip-and-chase was charged down for Schoupp to score his first try of the afternoon.
The Steelers centre added a second try moments later before completing his hat-trick on the stroke of half-time.
Illawarra targeted West Coast’s left edge, crossing for six first-half tries to take a 34-4 lead into the sheds.
Four more quick second-half tries, (including a Matt Feagai hat-trick) ended any hopes of a Pirates comeback as the Steelers racked up their half-century of points just before the hour mark.
Keen to add some credibility to the scoreline, the Pirates ended strongly. Stand-in skipper Oliver Callan bustled his way over for the Pirates’ second try of the afternoon before prop Daniel Potaka scored as the home side recorded the final 12 points of the contest.
“It was a privilege to lead the boys for the first time,” Callan said.
West Coast now turns their focus to their Round 5 trip to Canberra when they take on the Raiders at Seiffert Oval on March 10.