Roosters’ roll guts Sharks

Pete RoweSound Telegraph
Delane Edwards scores the winning try for the Roosters.
Camera IconDelane Edwards scores the winning try for the Roosters. Credit: NRL WA

A battling performance marred by two crucial second-half errors was costly in the Rockingham Sharks quest for grand final honours at Perth’s Dorrien Gardens on Saturday evening.

In a classic slugfest the Sharks went down 28-22 as the Fremantle Roosters claimed the 2017 NRLWA Premiership.

It could have been different had they converted a big 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.

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Some big defence from the Rockingham club and a lopsided 5-1 penalty count kept the Roosters at bay for 30 minutes before half-back Anthony Bowman spotted a gap from 35m out and went for the line, 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 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 of 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 scores were locked up once more.

In end-to-end rugby league both teams peppered the other’s defensive lines, looking for a breakthrough. An error from the Sharks gave the Roosters possession and momentum to score again, making it 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 to tie the scores at 16-all.

But from another mistake when in possession the Roosters took control of the game, finding gaps and space to run into.

They moved up a gear and two tries later, in the space of four minutes, the Roosters led 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 the night before the game, and with big forwards Ben Bolth and Richie Hicks making good metres, they began to find space.

Fullback Benny Leme Payako was solid under man-of-the-match 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 a 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 tougher in 2018.

Earlier Rockingham’s reserves failed in their grand final clash against Willagee

In a low-scoring battle in the trenches the Bears led 4-2 at half-time, before moving further in front in the second stanza to eventually run out 16-2 winners.

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