NRLWA FTG&P Premiership – Round 05 Recap

By PETER ROWE

The Rockingham Sharks proved they are real contenders for the 2024 NRLWA  Fuel to Go and Play Premiership crown with a dominant 28-12 win over the Fremantle Roosters on Saturday night, but player-coach Tom Murphy was quick to cool the early season enthusiasm, telling his players there was still a lot of work to be done.

 

Murphy, keen to not get carried away after four straight wins, knows there are plenty of challenges ahead.

 

“That was a very physical game, they came to play and the score didn’t reflect the outcome of the game, Murphy said. 

 

“We got a bit lucky through their errors, and great to see young Te (Auturoa Awhitiu-Kerei) score twice but you take those when you can and we had to put in a big second half to hold them off.”

 

Photo – Libby McMillan

Murphy, while delighted with the win, added there was still much to do. “We are far from a complete team,” he said. 

 

“Lots to improve on if we want to be in the finals in August.

 

“But let’s savour the victory, praise Fremantle for their efforts and get back to work.”

 

The Sharks defended everything the Roosters threw at them in the first 25 minutes of this pulsating match-up before young winger Te Auturoa Awhitiu-Kerei picked off a Keelyn Tuuta-Edwards bomb from the hands of a Fremantle defender 10 metres out to race over and score.

 

Four minutes later Peter Worth raced in to tackle Fremantle winger Nick Riggs with such ferocity, he dropped the ball, giving the ever alert Brandon White the opportunity to scoop up and cross for try number two.

 

And while the Roosters battled to find a way through a solid Sharks defence it was White again on the stroke of halftime who gave the home side a commanding 18-0 lead when he spotted a huge hole in the Rooster’s defensive line to dance through.

 

A shell shocked Fremantle side tried to regroup for the second half and thought they had scored in the 52nd minute, only for referee Scott Spittles to call it back for a forward pass.

 

“It wasn’t our day,” a sore captain Duane Butler, who suffered bruised ribs that will keep him on the sidelines for a couple of weeks, said.

 

The home side held firm as wave after wave of Fremantle players tried to unlock Rockingham’s defensive line and when, on a last tackle play, coach Delane Edwards orchestrated a shift right they thought they had – only for winger  Awhitiu-Kerei to intercept five metres from his own try line and race the length of the field for a superb score.

Photo – Libby McMillan

Fremantle, who are a big and strong outfit, and had played well throughout, looked dejected as Tuuta-Edwards kicked the conversion but there was more to come eight minutes later when White grabbed his second hat-trick of the season to seal the points for the home side.

 

Paora Kemp, who had been kept quiet all night,  got across the line in the 72nd minute as the Sharks defence tired and Jaydon Solomon added a second a minute from time, but the Sharks already had the points in the bag.

 

“Rockingham are a class outfit and Tom Murphy has done some great work there, so credit to them,” Butler added. “That was Western Australian rugby league at its very best.

 

“They capitalised on our errors – and we made too many on the night, but we kept turning up for each other and we know we will improve.

 

“We are still a bit disjointed, but I was happy with much of our defensive work – this was a high quality game between two very good sides.”

 

North Beach survived the loss of gun fullback Bailey Millar with a dislocated elbow just before halftime to secure the points at Joondalup, edging the Giants 18-10.

 

“It was a blow and a freak accident in a tackle and my thoughts go to Bailey, who will be out until July, but we had to regroup quickly and survive a real defensive arm wrestle in the second half,” coach Phil Douche said.

Photo – Carmel Potter-Green

 

Backrower Tyler Moreau and Millar had given the Sea Eagles an early lead before centre Mitch Haggart crossed for the home side and lock Drew Lloyd added a third on the half hour.

 

The only try of the second half came from Joondalup’s playmaker Gus Marshall on the hour mark as the Giants battled to get back into the game.

 

“Credit to them, they are a strong side and this was a proper battle,” Douche added.

 

“I had asked my team to show up defensively and they did. That was our best defensive performance for a few weeks, so it pleased me immensely.

 

“Joondalup really took it to us and they have some big forwards who can hurt you up the middle, it was a real grind in that second half.”

 

Giants halfback Taurean Sheehan was frustrated at the error count, but happy his side is improving with every game.

 

“Errors let us down for sure,” he said. “We go from good to bad to good and bad again – we need to cut out the errors and we will come good.

 

“We debuted another youngster in winger Leon White and he is one for the future. One thing for sure is we are competing and not lying down – and that pleased me.”