AN almost faultless second half performance from the Rockingham Sharks saw them come away from George Burnett Oval with both points in a solid 18-4 victory over the South Perth Lions in the Smarter than Smoking Premiership on Saturday.
The Sharks struggled through much of the first half, completing barely 50% of their sets, looking sluggish as the home side piled on early pressure.
And it didn’t take long for the Lions to find the line after keeping Rockingham pinned inside their own 20 for two sets.
Second rower Adam Bartholomew found a hole in the defence to cross in the 12th minute as the Sharks struggled to keep up with the early pace of the game.
“We were really slow and flat early in the first half and we had to step it up,” coach Darren Shaw said.
“At halftime we stressed our need to work through our sets, keep possession and keep our mistakes to minimum – but force them into errors.”
Errors were plentiful in that first 40, with Rockingham making eight to South Perth’s five as the visitors gradually found their feet and their gameplay started to exert pressure on a Lions defence that was found to be weak out wide.
Geordie Connelly and Connor Hudson were particularly dangerous down the left flank and it was from this pair the Sharks equalised in the 23rd minute.
A quick move across field saw Connelly take on his man and superbly flick the ball wide to the onrushing Hudson who raced for the corner.
Caleb Reedy missed the first of four attempts on goal but the game was all square as the Lions saw fiesty fullback Pika Ta Waita sinbinned for deliberately throwing the football at lose forward Anthony Bowman.
With the scores locked at four-apiece at the break, the game was there for both sides to win.
But the Sharks wanted it more.
In defence and on attack.
After Hudson caught another superb flick pass from Connelly in the 50th minute to race over, the Sharks had to endure three straight sets in their own 20, keeping the home side at bay and picking up a number of injuries, to forwards Ben Bolth and Reece Potter before fullback Benny Leme was carried from the field after turning an ankle in an awkward tackle.
The resilience of that defending showed the character of the side and the will to win – keep them out here and hope to seal the game with another score.
The third try came after two high tackles and resulting penalties from a frustrated Lions defence.
Nicely set up on the 20m line, Stephen Widders moved the ball first right and then left before Brandon Wright, on for Connelly, scored in the far corner with 12 minutes left.
Reedy missed his kick but the Sharks backed it up nine minutes later as the halfback raced through a gap in the defence to seal the tie.
His kick was a formality and the Sharks went home happy from a place few find any comfort, with two valuable points.
Earlier in the day, our women went down 4-0, under-18s had a superb 42-38 victory, Val Murphy (Thirds) lost 46-16 and the reserves were stunned by a last minute field goal to go down 13-12.