BY WILL EVANS
at Skilled Park
Army Thunder retained the Pa- trons Cup with a resounding 52-6 victory over fierce rivals Navy Tridents at Skilled Park in the curtain-raiser to the
Trans-Tasman Test match.
Former Rabbitoh flyer Joven Clarke starred with a hat-trick of tries, while ex-Balmain Tigers Pre- mier League five-eighth Keith Eshman toyed with the Navy
Titans defence as Army reversed recent shock loss to their seafaring counterparts.
Danger signs emerged early for the Tridents as tries to Eshman and winger Mick Harmer opened up a 12-0 lead for Army before the quarter mark.
Eshman stamped his class further by providing a brilliant offload for second-rower Chad Jenson to score, before slicing through flimsy Navy defence to send
Clarke over under the posts for his first try.
The Tridents finally opened their account in the 31st minute. Quick hands following an Army fumble
saw lighweight lock Simon Hoare cross in the corner, and Chris Tor- may's sideline conversion gave Navy a glimmer of hope heading to the sheds at 24-6 down.
But Navy's fate was effectively sealed eight minutes after the break. Interchange forward Damien Rex ironed out diminutive Thunder winger Joven Clarke,
sparking a melee, and was promptly sent off by referee Daniel Gigliotti.
Clarke's reprisal came in the form of a weaving run to lay on a try for a hard-running second rower Jesse Jenkins as the Thunder immediatly took advantage
of Trident's 12- man defensive line.
Army claimed their sixth try with their next possession, centre Zane Mitchell climbimg high to reel in a cross-kick and score, opening up a 34-6 scoreline.
The highlight of the match ar- rived in the 60th minute. Clarke, who made his NRL debut for Souths as a teenager in 2002, scooped up a loose ball
from an- other Navy turnover and scorched 80 metres for a spectacular try, denying the valiant chase of
Tridents winger Drew Thornton.
The Thunder finished the com- prehensive victory in style; fullback Mahn Darley toed the ball through and capitalised on a mix-up at the back to
score under the posts, before Clarke was gifted his hat-trick courtesy of another handling error. Darley capped a superb night with the boot by converting
Clarke's third try from the sideline, giving him a personal haul of 22 points.
"We took some hard lessons on board from a couple of weels ago, and the boys got the win today," Thunder skipper Pat Inskip said. after accepting the
coverted Patrons Cup. Inskip dedicated the victory to the 24 Australian sevicemen to have lost their lives in the Afghanistan conflict.
Army's pack, led up front by Inskip and Paul Ferguson, laid a superb foundation for Eshman, Clarke and co. to wreak havoc, while Darley shone at
Hard running center Matt Docker, try scoring Hoare and powerful bench forward Kerrod Adrensek were Navy's best in a spirited but