2023 NRL WA Premiership Review – Round 14

By Peter Rowe

Rockingham Sharks kept their season alive in dramatic style on Saturday evening, hanging on at the siren to defeat Joondalup Giants 34-23 in round 14 of the NRLWA Fuel to Go and Play Premiership.

A full-blooded game that ebbed and flowed saw both sides lay bodies on the line to ensure finals football was still a possibility.

But after 15 minutes it looked as if the home side would win comfortably as they took a 16-0 lead thanks to tries from centre Rueben Baillie, his wing partner Sirla Pera and captain Keelyn Tuuta-Edwards.

“We started really well but then dropped off and allowed them back into the game,” player-coach Tom Murphy said.

“Rueben (Baillie) had an awesome game and had a hand in three tries.

“But then it got a bit ugly, which is never pleasing although we handled it better and scored three tries.”

Once the Giants got some ball they began to roll, and under the leadership of halfback Gus Marshall fought back to 16-12 at halftime thanks to tries from Zantana Pomare and Payden Porter.

With two Giants player sinbinned early in the second half, and one Shark, the home side took advantage of the extra space as Tuuta-Edwards, Pera and fullback Connor Hudson all crossed.

But this game was was far from over and even after Murphy extended the lead the Giants still had fuel in the tank to mount a comeback.

Davey Martin and Riley Captein closed the gap as the Sharks tired before speedster Luke Turner turned on the afterburners down the right edge to score twice and create a nail biting climax.

“That was tough to take, a massive game,” admitted Giants coach Taurean Sheehan after the game.

“We weren’t at the races for the first 20 minutes, but credit to the boys we came back well.

“I could see at halftime the look in their eyes, they still wanted it. But credit to Rockingham, they hurt us again midway through the second half and hung on to win.

“Despite the loss there was a lot positives to take from the game.”

At George Burnett  Park, minor premiers Fremantle continued their winning run with a comfortable 36-12 victory over South Perth.

The Roosters jumped to a 20-0 lead at halftime thanks to tries from Paora Kemp, Nick Riggs, Bjorn Crotty and the returning Sonny Kerr, who was superb in the halves.

“We didn’t have any centres for the game so Delane (Edwards) dropped into that spot and it worked,” captain Duane Butler said.

“Before the game I was nervous we wouldn’t compete as we’ve already won the minor premiership.

“And we’ve not really competed for more than 50 minutes in a game, but it was much better, I think 65 minutes.

“We controlled the ruck it was a good all-round performance and sets us up nicely for the finals.”

With Kerr and Jayden Solomon in the halves the Roosters looked sharp and more intense than their opponents, who pulled two tries back early in the second half through Luke David Wells-Taiamaivao and Keiran Parish.

Ezra Taomia played his part in two positions, scoring from the second row and the centres before winger Riggs added his second to seal the win.

“Not our day,” Lions team manager Paul Brown conceded.

“We completed only about 55 per cent of sets in the first half and although it improved in the second, we made too many errors when we had the ball.

“Fremantle played their usual game, up the middle and then out the back with some good dummy runners and they were too good for us.

“We certainly didn’t play at our best, although Ethan Gourgaud and Brandon Timlin both had solid games, but we finish third and have a week off to prepare for finals against either Joondalup or Rockingham.”