The Cottesloe Premier Grade’s season is officially back on track after defeating a brutally physical Kalamunda side in a war of attrition, by a score of 29 points to 25. The warning signs were there for how it was going to be for the prems earlier in the day, as both the Thirsty Threes and Ressies had to endure some torrid physicality to achieve victory. Kalamunda Prems showed why they made it to the final in 2018 with their hard, direct and savage style of play, but on the day our men withstood the onslaught and came out the other side with the points.
The first half began with Cottesloe flying out of the blocks. Sean “Morne” Martin swung the ball left and right to try and move some of the enormous Kala piano lifters around and strip some of the steam from their collective engines. Tobias Hoskins and Mayson Hill probed through the midfield continually and Zane Herrick made inroads around the fringes. Cottesloe struck first through a penalty from fullback Ben Meredith to go 3-0 up but it was apparent even from this early point that the Kalamunda forwards wanted to do damage to the Cottesloe ball carriers in the tackle. After twenty minutes Cottesloe got the first try of the game through a well worked move that culminated in Tamba Lebbie scorching over. It was a brilliant score and it capitalised on Kalamunda’s over eagerness to fly up and put on the “big shot” and they were duly exposed. This score proved to be a catalyst for the Bulls though and they came roaring back with a vengeance. Their ball carriers began to attack the Cottesloe defensive line in a berserk rage and their cleaning out players launched themselves like patriot missiles at any Cott player who dared compete for the ball on the ground. Heroic defence from Gafa Su'a and Ivan Fepuleai managed to contain them mostly but Kalamunda could not be completely contained and they managed to score both an easy penalty and a well worked try down the right hand side. With five minutes to go in the first half the score was 10-8. This type of kamikaze aggression from the Bulls cost them in terms of energy at this point though and as a result Cottesloe hit back just before the break when Mayson Hill showed his class by evading some tired looking defence to go over for a try. The conversion was successful and the score at the break was 17-8.
Cottesloe began the second half as they finished the first. Gafa, Ivan and Zane bravely took on the apocalyptic defence of the Kalamunda tight forwards and Tobias Hoskins charged undaunted into the teeth of their backrow fully knowing he was going to be poleaxed. This sort of courage eventually paid dividends when replacement half back Scotty Nichol was able to squeeze over for another try and Cottesloe looked well on top at 22-8. It looked at this point like it would be Cottesloe’s day as the scrum was utterly dominant, the lineout was imperious and the handling was solid. But the game turned. Kalamunda went up another gear and released yet more walking human icebergs from their bench and the ball carrying assault resumed. The endless bombarding runs from the Kalamunda forwards took a physical toll on the Cottesloe defence and our lads began to fall off tackles. Kalamunda scored a wonderful try, followed by another but crucially they missed both conversions to leave it at 22-18. At this point the men in blue were teetering and coaches Westaway, Owen and West elected to unleash Simi Verata, Mikey Walker, Dr Johnny Iliff and Kaisa Reidy from the bench. Cottesloe began to endure the Kalamunda assault a bit better. With ten minutes to go one of the Kalamunda backrow received his marching orders for some overly aggressive play and it looked like we would hang on. Disaster struck though almost immediately as Kalamunda scored a brilliant first phase try through their underused backs and for once it was converted. Cottesloe were not done though. With two minutes to go Mikey Walker released speed merchant Jimmy Blackburn down the wing and he sprinted fifty metres and earned Cottesloe a penalty. Kieran Stringer elected to go for a scrum. After two doses of Kaisa Reidy smashing his opposite number the referee awarded the penalty try and Cottesloe went 29-25 up with a minute to go. Kalamunda launched one last attack in injury time in the left corner but a combination of Ivan and Simi managed to shove one of their forwards into touch and the whistle was blown. Cottesloe had won.
This was an incredible game of rugby and a type of test that Cottesloe had not yet faced this year where one side displayed an almost visceral need for physical contact and tried to blitz us. Knowing what was on the line though, our men stood up to the siege and broke them in the end. Cottesloe’s set pieces were phenomenal throughout and that was the one area where Kalamunda could never gain a foothold. Gafa Su’a and Ivan Fepuleai were immense in the front row and both Zane Herrick and Lafa Ikanesio carried bravely. Kieran Stringer exuded calm in the face of the Kalamunda whirlwind and it exuded palpably throughout the team. Mayson Hill was poised and composed in the midfield and the men that were sprung from the bench all made a massive impact. For this writer though, Tamba Lebbie stood out. It was his best game in a blue shirt as he carried with so much heart and courage for the team. He ironed out a few of the Kalamunda giants in defence and when he was melted himself on a few occasions, he picked himself up dusted himself off and waded back into the fray. His performance was a microcosm for what the whole team displayed in the eye of the storm, that was Kalamunda.
This week Cottesloe Prems face Arks at the nest this Saturday and despite being battered and bruised, relish the challenge.