A battling performance marred by two crucial second-half errors saw the Rockingham Sharks fall short in their quest for Grand final honours at Perth’s Dorrien Gardens on Saturday evening.
In a classic slugfest game of rugby league the Sharks went down 28-22 as the Fremantle Roosters claimed the 2017 NRLWA Premiership.
It could have been different had they converted a massive last minute push to the line, but as the clock ran down they were forced back. losing the ball – and the game.
The Roosters opened the scoring after five minutes and with the kick successful, took an early 6-0 lead.
Some big defence from the Rockingham club and a lopsided 5-1 penalty count kept the Roosters at bay for 30 minutes before halfback Anthony Bowman spotted a gap from 35 metres out and went for the, leaving several Fremantle defenders in his wake.
Young Tyler Hunt kicked the extras and the game was locked up.
It should have stayed that way at the break but for a dreadful mistake from referee Michael Sims, calling a dropped ball when it was clearly knocked out of Bowman’s hands as he lay on the ground.
From the resulting scrum the Roosters quickly moved the ball across field and scored in the corner. The conversion was good and the scoreboard read 12-6 to the men in red and blue.
Roosters’ player-coach Delane Edwards was the star if the show, moving into the line from his fullback position to set up several try scoring opportunities, but it was the Sharks who scored the next try.
Centre Geordie Connelly took control of the angle of attack and found Hayden Dangen-Toby outside to cross. Hunt’s kick was again good and the scored were locked up once more.
End-to-end rugby league saw both team pepper the other’s defensive lines, looking for a breakthrough and an error from the Sharks gave the Roosters possession and momentum to score again. 16-12.
Then back down the other end, from some clever quick play the balls, Connor Hudson, who had a fine game, saw enough daylight to cross in the far corner. 16-16.
But from another mistake when in possession, the Roosters took control of the game finding gaps and space to run into.
They quickly moved up a gear and two tries later in the space of four minutes saw them leading 28-16.
The errors proved costly but Rockingham never gave up – a trait this team has had in spades this season.
With Andy Jeffery directing traffic from his hooker role, Matt Ranguia, who became a dad for the first time night before the game, and with big forwards Ben Bolth Richie Hicks making good metres, they began to find space.
Fullback Benny Leme Payako was solid under Edwards’ incessant high kicks as they built a platform to mount a comeback.
Veteran Pete Worth, playing his final game for the club before retiring, found himself on the end of clever across field move and he barged over from short distance. Hunt’s extras brought it back to six point ball game and the Sharks, with five minutes left on the clock, went in search of an equalising try again.
They pushed and pushed and had the Roosters hanging on by the merest of margins, but it was not to be.
One final set, after a penalty pushed them to within 20m of the line with 36 seconds, left gave the Sharks the chance for a miracle.
But it was not to be. The Roosters rushed the line, causing a dropped ball as the siren sounded.
For the Sharks a magnificent season came to an end on a losing note – but this young side with an average age of just 21 – will be back, stronger and metswlly tougher in 2018.
Earlier Rockingham’s reserves failed in their grand final clash against Willagee Bears. A low-scoring battle in the trenches saw the Bears was 4-2 at half-time, before they moved further in front in the second stanza to eventually run out 16-2 winners.
Benton Leme: Always solid under the high balls the Roosters incessantly tested him with.
Connor Hudson: Strong game, and scored a crucial try.
Logan Barclay: Strong going forward and in defence.
Geordie Connelly: Always dangerous and set up a try. Class act.
Hayden Dangen-Toby: Nearly back to his best of two years ago – with a fine try.
Anthony Bowman: Strong game as a leader, despite a couple of errors.
Tyler Hunt: This young man has a bright future but today was kept under control.
Reece Potter: The skipper ran his heart out, but not his day.
Andrew Jeffery: Made a big difference going forward when he came on after 20 minutes.
Benjamin Bolth: Big runs and big tackles from the lad with a big heart.
Julian Wilson Wyllie: Had a quiet game by his high standards, but little wrong.
Joshua Bransby: Not given much ball and not as dangerous as last week.
Brandon Wright: Another star of the future but this was not his day.
Matthew Rangiuia: A new dad and always sold taking the ball up.
Brandon Timlin: Started and a strong tackler but lacked match fitness after long injury.
Richard Hicks: Solid runs and tackles, sadly Fifo commitments mean we have yet to see the best of Richie.
Pete Worth: Fitting for him to score in his his final game- a super superb servant to the club.