A half-time ‘spray to beat all sprays’ from player-coach Tom Murphy shook Rockingham Sharks into life to beat the South Perth Lions 24-20 and win their first game of the 2023 NRL Fuel to Go and Play Premiership season on Saturday, but they had to withstand a late Lions’ surge to hang on for the points.
The Sharks were trailing 16-4 at the halftime siren as the Lions found a weak spot down the left edge to score twice through Keiran Liss with centre Ethan Gougard adding a third to dominate the game.
Murphy then worked his magic with a few choice words to change his side’s mindset as they came out to dominate there second stanza, especially around the ruck and up the middle, to emerge winners.
“We had a few words, but the boys dug deep, especially our forwards who had to put in extra minutes when our bench was down to three with injuries,” Murphy said.
“It was a physical game and showed we can compete, but it’s only one win, so we still have plenty of work to do.”
When halfback Karlo Trego limped off in the second half Murphy jumped into the hooker role allowing starting No.9 Kelvin Coleman to slot into the halves and the move worked as the Sharks began to dominate the ruck.
Trego and Murphy had earlier scored to bring the Sharks back into the game and when fullback Connor Hudson and winger Liam Johnson scored - the latter off a bizarre kick into goal that took a wicked bounce in the home side’s favour, the boys in blue were in front.
Tyler Thomas brought Souths back into the game late on to set up a grandstand finish, one which Rockingham survived.
“If we could cut and paste our first half performance into the second 40 minutes we would have won comfortably, but it didn’t turn out like that,” assistant coach Paul Brown said.
“We were flat at the start of the second half and allowed them back in. We got back in it late and had two or three sets to score but we couldn’t finish,
“No excuses, we had players out but I thought out young 17-year-old debutant Sam Gerbasch was outstanding. He’s come over from Emerald in Queensland and is still at school.”
At North Beach coach Phil Douche described his side’s 28-22 loss to Fremantle as Ground Hog Day, with another performance he’d like to forget.
The Sea Eagles took an early lead but every time they took control they then pushed too far and gave up possession, something that Douche said after the game has to stop.
“It was the same last week, we still have no respect for possession, we give up the ball too easily,” he said.
“We’re going to have an honesty session this week to talk through our mistakes and how we can play out out sets and keep possession.
“We were trying to score on the second tackle and then we ended up losing the ball.”
The Roosters, with several players missing through injury, considered themselves the underdogs but like so many Roosters teams, never gave up.
Captain Duane Butler secured the victory with a try on the siren but admitted afterwards they could have lost the game.
“North Beach pushed us all the way and we had to defend a lot but they just didn’t have that scoring pass,” Butler said.
Fremantle built their win on tries from halfback Deba Cook (2) and big forward Julian Wylie but picked up a couple more injuries to add to their growing list.
“We have a few out and (centre) Wiremu Paki has broken a couple of ribs and will be out for eight weeks,” Butler said.
“But we keep picking up the points to stay top.”