Numbers proved too strong for a gallant Willagee Bears side on Saturday as the Rockingham Sharks found second-half form to emerge 40-20 winners in their Round 10 NRLWA Smarter Than Smoking Premiership clash at Webber reserve.
In a fiery, yet spiteful game, full of mistakes, the Bears lost two players to injury and another to a sin-bin midway through the second stanza as the Sharks found space out wide to seal a tough victory.
“It wasn’t pretty out there,” playmaker Jack Wray said after the game.
“We spoke at halftime about not getting sucked into a scrap and eventually we got there.”
The Sharks were architects of their own early problems after Connor Hudson had given them a four point lead in the second minute.
Fullback Josh Neal misread the bounce of a last tackle kick from the home side and the Bears took advantage to pick up and score.
Three minutes later they were in again when Neal mis-timed his run to the ball as the Bears, without a win all season, sensed an upset.
But it didn’t take the Sharks long to peg back the scores when Luke Hughes, slotting in at lock, crossed after Julian Wilson-Wyllie was stopped short.
Hooker Andrew Jeffery quickly shifted the ball inside to Hughes, whose barging run from 10m out was never going to be stopped.
Wray’s kicked made it level at 12-all and it stayed that way for 14 minutes as the two sides slugged it out, with a player from each team getting 10 minutes in the sin-bin.
When Neal came up into the line and superbly atoned for his earlier mistake to help set up Josh Jerome, the Sharks took the lead again but it didn’t last long.
The halftime break and discussion seemed to fall on deaf ears as a minute into the second period, Willagee went in front again as tempers flared and another two players (Hudson and the Bears fullback) were both sin-binned.
Down to 12 men apiece seemed to suit the Sharks better as Ezra Taomia was quick to add his name to the scoresheet and with the conversion good the visitors were back in front – a position they then never lose like relinquishing – apart from an interception that was called for offside, and another Bears sin-bin for backchatting the referee with less than ten minutes remaining.
Winger Misaeli Pomale, missing his brother Tevita (away of family business) clicked in to gear down the left flank as the Sharks extended their lead.
Quick ball movement undid the Bears defence and Pomale squeezed over in the corner.
He added another minutes later down the same flank to seal the game as Jerome finished off the contest four minutes from time with his second.
Pomale could have had a third on the siren – he crossed – but a celebration and melee resulted in referee Michael Sims overturning the score for foul play.
“A punch was thrown,” Sims said. “So I overturned the score and awarded a penalty.
In the end it mattered little as the Sharks will look to welcome back more numbers ahead of this weekend’s big clash with the Roosters at Fremantle.