The Willagee Bears battled but ultimately ran out of puff in a 40-20 loss to the Rockingham Sharks in Round 10 of the WA Smarter Than Smoking Premiership at Webber Reserve on Saturday.
The Bears produced their best performance of the season and were in line for an unlikely win when they found themselves in front with 25 minutes to play.
The Sharks pulled through, however, scoring four late tries to condemn the hosts to a tenth straight loss, while moving their own record to 6-4.
Sharks Coach Darren Shaw praised the Bears’ efforts.
“They came out with a fire in their belly today and took us all the way to about 65 minutes and we finally got away at the back end,” he said.
In a frantic start, the Sharks scored with their first use of the football – Luke Hughes making the Bears pay for some missed tackles to touch down.
The Bears so easily could have let their heads slip, but bounced back immediately – fullback Robbie Smith getting on the end of a clever chip-and-chase from captain Luke Pollock.
Smith was again the beneficiary of a smart kick just two minutes later, grabbing his double after strong build-up play from Lewis Samuels.
Keen not to be outdone, Hughes responded with his second of the game – crashing over after a short pass from dummy half Andrew Jeffery to tie the game up at 12-12.
With points a premium in such a tight affair, Pollock knocked over a penalty goal just before the half-hour mark to re-establish his side’s lead.
The Bears haven’t taken a lead into half-time so far this season, and it would remain that way as Josh Jerome sliced through the Willagee defence to dot down on the stroke of the main break to give his team an 18-14 advantage.
Whatever was said in the Willagee changing rooms at half-time had the desired effect as the home side regained the lead just three minutes in.
Skipper Pollock found a gap in the Sharks defence and seemed destined to score before a strip saw the ball fall loose. Luckily for the Bears, forward Ricky Cathro was on hand to pounce.
With the Bears smelling blood, the Sharks needed a lift and they found it via Ezra Taomia who fended off Cathro to put his side up 24-20.
With the game entering the final 15 minutes, the Bears started to fade – injuries to John Prior and Kotani Eruti not helping as the hosts’ bench started to look a little thin.
Misaeli Pomale crossed for a late double before Jerome grabbed his second as the Sharks padded the scoreline.
Despite the result, Willagee Coach Nelson Davis was proud of his side’s showing.
“The boys have got to keep their heads high. Both halves I thought we started really well,” he said.
“It was the first time this year we took a lead back off a team.”
In other results around the grounds, the South Perth Lions won their fourth straight, downing ladder leaders North Beach Sea Eagles 22-20, while the Fremantle Roosters returned to the winner’s circle with a 28-10 success over the Joondalup Giants.