Cottesloe Premier Grade’s undefeated start to the 2019 season came to a crashing halt at the weekend, when a young and fired up Palmyra side came up with all the answers in the sweltering heat. Cottesloe enjoyed plenty of possession throughout the match and in reality, had plenty of chances to come out on top, but instead of an expected victory, little errors allowed Palmyra to capitalise and it resulted in defeat on a score of 22-15.
The first half began at a rip roaring pace with both forward packs looked to have a pop at the other. Sasha Holloway, Ivan Fepuleai and Lafa Ikenasio defied the 30 degree temperatures to carry with both authority and regularity. Disaster struck very early for Cott though when talismanic lock Ben Grant had to be withdrawn early, which diminished the size of the pack somewhat. Cottesloe camped inside the Palmyra half for much of this early period but all that they came away with was a penalty goal. Against the run of play it was Palmyra who struck for the game’s first try when they created an overlap out wide and scored. The try was not converted and Pally went 5-3 up. Cottesloe went up another gear and great carries from the tight forwards drove Palmyra back and captain Gafa Sua smashed his way over and touched down. The try was not converted and Cottesloe lead 8-5. A very unfortunate yellow card was issued to Gafa at this point when, from this writer’s perspective, a Pally forward charged head first into Gafa’s midriff in an accidental collision. Palmyra successfully kicked the penalty and the score was level at the break, 8 apiece.
The second half saw Palmyra begin to put phases together against our fourteen men. Their 10 and 15 tormented Rory Edwards and Mayson Hill with their tactical kicking and carved off huge swathes of territory by forcing Rory and Mayson to cover enormous tracts of ground in the blistering heat. In the midfield, Palmyra were extremely adept at catching Cottesloe very narrow in our defence and as a result they successfully created multiple overlaps on the outside. Eventually something had to give. A clever move down the left flank by the Pally backs resulted in a classy try and several minutes later a terribly unfortunate bounce of the ball resulted in a lucky try for the home team under the posts. At 22-8 the game looked almost out of reach for Cott with only twenty minutes to go. Coaches Westaway, Owen and West elected to unleash some firepower from the bench at this point and it had an instant effect in terms of tempo. Scotty Nichol, Jason Badenhorst and veteran Tim Parks were all injected into the backline and suddenly Cottesloe looked both more robust in defence and more accurate in attack. Cottesloe then suffered a terrible setback once more though when Josh Tuailli burrowed his way over for a great score which was then subsequently cancelled on the word of the touch judge. The play was brought back seventy metres up the field and Cottesloe had another player yellow carded. It was a huge reversal but Cottesloe did not let it deter them. Gafa Sua went over for his second try several minutes later which was converted and it set up a grand stand finish. In injury time, Cottesloe penetrated deep into the Palmyra 22 but a knock on prompted the referee to draw this pulsating game to a close, to the delight of the Pally supporters and their forward pack, who were absolutely shattered at that point.
This game was a constant uphill battle for Cottesloe with injuries, untimely yellow cards and 50/50 calls going against them. It was a cauldron type atmosphere in the heat as several of our youngest players were targeted both mentally and physically. Palmyra executed everything they tried and their tactical kicking, slightly better attacking shape and superior discipline ultimately proved the difference. Despite so many things going wrong for Cott a number of men stood up. Lafa Ikenasio and captain Gafa Sua carried with authority all day. Levi Fargnoli put in a tremendous shift having played a full game of ressies beforehand in the heat and was duly forced into the fray very early to replace Ben Grant. But for this writer, it was Sasha Holloway who caught the eye. With twenty minutes to go Cottesloe found themselves down to fourteen men and fourteen points down on the scoreboard, and it was Sasha who constantly put his hand up looking for work. He drove into the heart of the Palmyra defence time and time again and if the game had gone on any longer, he would have been the main catalyst for any potential comeback. This defeat is a minor setback and the lads are hungry to get back into the winners enclosure versus Southern Lions at the Nest on Saturday.