The Alkimos Tigers are the Val Murphy Trophy Premiers again, but this time in reserve grade, as they overpowered a very stubborn Fremantle Roosters 26-16. In a very intense and physical clash the Tigers were slightly smarter and less wasteful than the erratic Roosters, who at times looked like they would either run away with the contest, or loss by a huge margin.
In a frantic start, the Tigers were on top early, courtesy of some errors and a ball kicked out on the full. And they took full advantage. Player of the match and captain Will Akroyd, along with fellow firebrand Manu Rakena got to work early, and with good field position, smart hooker Sky Wanahi dove over to give the Tigers an early 4-0 lead, with the conversion just missing.
But who would want to be a coach? Your message after scoring a try, just like most coaches would be “must complete after we score points.” And sure enough, the Tigers fumble the kick off and put themselves under immense pressure. But some great defensive decisions by Kurt Wagner and Conrad McAllister the Roosters could not crack the Tigers line and ended up forcing themselves into their own error.
After some more back and forth the Roosters found themselves with the momentum off the back of some big runs from Brad Gibson and smart play from Lewis Samuels. And when they found themselves with a scrum just to the right of the posts, they put on a beautiful scrum play. Samuels found Paasi Fine from the scrum, who with some brilliant sleight of hand dummied to Samuels on the loop, and found a charging Joshua Upson who scored next to the posts untouched. Captain Ruamai Erueti throws over the conversion and all of a sudden the Fremantle Roosters lead 6-4.
But the pendulum started to swing once again and it was the Tigers on the front foot. After some big initial runs from Tyler Moeau and Davey Martin ended up with a Tigers penalty. They rumbled it to near the posts, and man of the moment Akroyd didn’t disappoint. Wanahi him found him close to the line, and he spun out of two tackles and made the Roosters pay. The kick was then waved away, but the Tigers were in the lead 8-6 and the game was really heating up.
After some big interchange of shots from both forward packs, with Harrison Sanders from the Roosters right in the thick of it, and the smaller Corey Broughton throwing himself around with the boys in the middle. An even match, with both teams discipline not that great, the Roosters were the next to blink. With Pilimo Moala’s signature tackle busting run setting up his outside men, Tyler Moeau ended up with the ball and unselfishly sent it on to an unmarked Te Wheoro Kihi who made no mistake with the put down. That brought us to halftime with the Tigers holding a 12-6 lead.
Similar to the other games, the Roosters came out at halftime with more direct play. With Konnor Day and Kalani Reti waking up from their first half slumber and really taking some damaging runs. With the Roosters forwards answering the call and taking the play to the Tigers, the boys from down south started to dish out some of their own big shots and then Fremantle’s big player Upson showed up again. Being marked by fellow ace Luke Turner and Moeau, it didn’t bother Upson who scored a massive individual victory on this day with another great try.
Breaking tackles for fun, he also showed a great pair of heels to put space between himself and the cover defence to score his second of the day, and the momentum clearly was shifting. With their tails in the air you could feel their supporters really lift. But it was their discipline which cost them again, as another crucial penalty put the Tigers back into an attacking position. And low and behold it was Akryod who did the damage again. The big front rower spun out of two tackles and fended two others to score his second of the day. Aaron McDonald, who hadn’t had the easiest day with the boot, nailed this one from the right touchline, to make the margin 8 points at 18-10.
There was still plenty of time remaining, with over twenty minutes left, but it seemed that the Roosters then seemed to panic slightly. Trying quick taps and low percentage passes, going away from the plan that seemed to be working. And with that, they just gave the ball back to the Tigers a little too much, and wide running Moeau made them pay. Getting the ball two wide off a scrum, Moeau showed too much toe against his opposite and with his blonde hair waving in the wind, scampered 60 metres to put the Tigers further in front. McDonald actually struck this one well, but the wind had other ideas, as it fell just short of the posts and the Tigers led 22-10.
And low and behold the Tigers let the Roosters back in, dropping the ball off the kickoff, and the Roosters took full advantage. Samuels found a bollocking Isziah Gerrard, who despite 5 tigers being within a metre of him, found the try line and put the Roosters right back in the midst of it. With Erueti making no mistake of the conversion, they had ten minutes of game time left and all to play for with the game 22-16.
When it gets to crunch time you want your stars to stand up. Enter David Martin. Two crucial intercepts in the final ten mins shut down massive attacking raids from the Roosters and put the Tigers in good field position, and his team mates answered their gun halfbacks call. Akroyd, Moeau and Kukutai Kihi had some big runs, and Manu Rakena finished it off and also the game. Scooping it from dummy half after a quick play the ball, he ended the game as a contest after he dove over from close range. After McDonald kicked the conversion, at 28-16 the game ended with a bit a low point from both teams.
But it was a great contest and the Tigers were worthy winners, while the Roosters dominated parts of the game, but were ultimately their own worst enemy. A great grand final, and some bruising hits, the Tigers take the trophy north, while the Roosters can hold their head high, after a great season from the team and club.
Val Murphy Trophy Grand Final – Fremanle Roosters 16 def by Alkimos Tigers 28
Roosters – Tries – Joshua Upson (2), Isziah Gerrard
Goals – Ruamai Erueti (2)
Tigers – Tries – William Akroyd (2), Sky Wanahi, Te Wheoro Kihi, Tyler Moeau, Manu Rakena
Goals – Aaron McDonald (2)