Savvy Roosters down Sharks
The curse of the minor premiership was the undoing of all three Smarter than Smoking Premiership men’s finals on the weekend as the Rockingham Sharks went down to the Fremantle Roosters 3228 in a thriller of a main game.
The Sharks third-grade minor premiers had fallen 26-18 to South Perth earlier in the day and the reserves had knocked off minor premiers Willagee 24-14 before the first grade sides took to the field.
It was a cliffhanger that showcased everything good about rugby league — two teams battling out for a place in the 2017 grand final.
The Roosters, though, were the smarter and more tactically savvy of the two, jumping to a 12-0 lead after just 15 minutes as skipper Delane Edwards showed why he was the best player in the State, with a magical performance to drive the visitors around the park.
His line breaks often had the Sharks’ defence at sea and it took 19 minutes before they had a sniff at the whitewash.
Half-back Tyler Hunt found space 25m out to dance his way past a host of defenders to score his first of three for the day.
Hunt was the Sharks’ only real highlight.
He notched up 22 of their 28 points in an MVP performance.
Geordie Connelly came off the sick list to bring the Sharks to within two points two minutes later as the large home crowd sensed their team was at last finding the gears. Hunt’s conversion levelled it up. “But we made too any errors once we got possession,” a deflated coach Darren Shaw said.
“When we found space and got our backs involved we started to hurt them, but some of the mistakes we made cost us.”
Four minutes before the break, another Edwards-controlled move set up the Roosters and they went into the break four points in front.
The Roosters went further in front seven minutes after the restart.
Too many errors were handing the ball to a hungry Roosters side, looking to dominate in quick play, the ball moving both right and left to test a tiring Sharks defensive unit.
It was left to Hunt to restore some parity and his second try of the day was another dazzling run to beat three defenders. His kick closed the gap to two points but an error on the restart when a short kick-off was recovered by the Roosters allowed the visitors to march upfield to add four more points.
Hunt added his third in the 59th minute and with another successful kick, just two points separated the sides. When hooker Andy Jef- fery drew a penalty short of the line minutes later, Hunt coolly stepped up and tied the game once again.
Just 13 minutes of football remained to decide a winner and when the Sharks were awarded a penalty 35m out, Hunt was there again.
This time his kick missed, but amazingly, two minutes later the home side was awarded another penalty in a similar position.
Caleb Reedy kicked the points and for the first time in the game the Sharks were in front.
With barely three minutes on the clock the Sharks got a short kickoff wrong again, as Ian Wood found little support when the Roosters pushed him into touch.
From the resulting scrum and feed, Fremantle went on the hunt for the winning try.
They found the space wide right to the uprights as the clock ticked down to the two-minute mark.
“We go again next week,” coach Shaw said, as the Sharks now face Joondalup Giants in a preliminary knockout final for that elusive grand final spot.
Earlier in the day Neihana McMillan, Alistair Parmenter, Tangimetua Tangimetua and Cliff Oalu scored for the Val Murphy third grade in their 26-18 loss and they too will face Joondalup in their final push on the weekend.
Tries from Logan Barclay (2), Tewhakapono Tuhua, Jayden Toelupe and Josh Matthews and kicks from Josh Jerome saw the Sharks reserve grade put in a superb performance to see off the challenge of the Willagee Bears, who ended the game with two players sinbinned.
Reserve grade beat Willagee Bears.