By Peter Rowe
The Fremantle juggernaut rolled on at Treeby on Saturday, completing a 36-22 win over the North Beach Eagles to edge towards another NRLWA Fuel to Go and Play minor premiership.
The defending premiers were back to full strength for the rematch with their 2022 grand final opponents, who suffered three injury withdrawals in the prematch warmup.
“It was chaotic,” North Beach coach Phil Douche said.
“But we rallied, pulled some players up from reserves and gave them a game.
“Fremantle had a strong side out and in the end deserved the win, but for long periods we matched them.”
The Sea Eagles biggest loss from the warmup carnage was halfback Jeremy Wallace, who got jammed in a tackle and injured his shoulder.
“Our forwards were solid against their big pack and I was impressed with the way we handled the issues,” Douche said.
Gershom Adams gave the Sea Eagles a surprise opening try after two minutes in what Fremantle captain Duane Butler said was a “crazy slow start from us,” and despite a Bailey Miller double and another from Jayden Grey, the Roosters hit back in the second half to dominate.
“We were sluggish in the first half but got going in the second,” Butler added.
“We know we have to improve if we are to win the comp this year.”
Joe Po’uhila, Jayden Solomon and Bjorn Crotty all crossed before tries from Delane Edwards, Kerrod Hignett and fullback Paora Kemp wrapped up the points.
Five tries to four – and the kicks – proved the difference at George Burnett Park as South Perth kept their playoff hopes alive at the expense of a depleted Rockingham Sharks with a 28-16 win.
But South Perth assistant coach Angelo Tsakalos was far from happy with the performance.
“I’m OK we got the points, but it was a scrappy win and we have to do better than that if we are to progress through the finals,” Tsakalos said.
“Rockingham more than matched us and if they had executed better I think they would have won.
“If we play like that against Fremantle or North Beach, they will put us to the sword.”
Ethan Gourgaud and Tyler Thomas had given the Lions an early lead before fullback Connor Hudson scored the first of a double for the Sharks, who then pressured the home side after fullback Harry Debique had been sinbinned.
Andrew Jeffery returned to the side after months out with a shoulder injury to score before a defensive lapse let Jarrad Smith find a hole to dive through to extend their lead at the break to eight.
Tries from Brandon Timlin and Corbyn Daniels pushed the Lions further in front, but the Sharks, missing seven players from their round 10 loss to North Beach, were not done, rallying to score two lates tries through Hudson and Kurt De Amyand.
“I agree with Angelo,” Sharks player-coach Tom Murphy said. “When we had the opportunity we didn’t come up with the play. It was as simple as that.
“There’s a lot of work to do to get this club back to where it should be, and despite the loss, there was plenty of effort from those who stepped up, and I was pleased to see AJ (Jeffery) back on the field.”
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