Cottesloe premier grade maintained their position on top of the ladder with a tight victory over an improving Wanneroo side on a score line of 18 points to 10. The blustery conditions made it difficult for both sides but Cottesloe’s more direct style of football and tactical kicking saw them through in the end.
The first half began with both sides trying and ultimately failing to go wide as the windy conditions played havoc with many an attempted pass and kick. Each pack sort of nullified the other in most aspects of the game although Cottesloe seemed to have a slight edge at lineout time, while Wanneroo had a noticeable advantage at the scrum. Cottesloe were the first to strike when they successfully managed to maintain possession inside the Wanneroo 22 for a few phases and that allowed Simi Verata to evade a few tackles to dot down. Ben Meredith struck the conversion and Cottesloe went up 7-0. Wanneroo worryingly were beginning to dominate severely and win penalties at scrum time at this point and they used this as a base to march down the field over the next twenty minutes or so. The pressure gave on around the 25 minute mark when the Wanneroo centres found themselves in a mismatch against a couple of Cott front rowers and sliced through the blue wall to score a wonderful try. It was converted and the game was level. Sean Martin and Scott Nichol began to resort to the boot to gain territory for the two blue and this lead to Cottesloe’s second try on the 33rd minute mark when Tamba Lebbie used his power to shrug off his opposite number and score on the left hand side. The conversion was missed but Cott had the lead. Wanneroo managed one more penalty before the break in response and the score at half time was 12-10.
The second half began well for Cottesloe when Ben Meredith slotted a penalty to make the score 15-10 to the two blue. Just like in the game versus UWA last week, Cottesloe elected to play territorially and they pumped the ball deep into the Wanneroo half at every opportunity. With the wind rising and conditions worsening, Wanneroo found themselves unable to breech the Cottesloe defensive line. Ivan Fepuleai and Jordie Bungard were central to Cottesloe’s endeavours during this period as they repeatedly smashed Wanneroo ball carriers and denied them the advantage line. Captain Kieran Stringer asked Ben Meredith to attempt a few long range shot-to-nothingpenalty attempts over the course of this twenty minute period, but they were incredibly difficult attempts for him to execute in the windand he failed to score. They did however succeed in eating up time for Wanneroo and forced them to kick the ball back to us from 22 drop outs and thus Cottesloe were able to constantly march right back into Wanneroo territory. On 72 minutes, Ben was given a relatively easy penalty to convert and he knocked it over to put the scores out to 18 points to 10. This pretty much ended the contest as Wanneroo did not look capable of scoring one more score, never mind the two required for victory. There was a brief glimmer of hope with five minutes remaining when new recruit Cohen Masson received a yellow card, but a badly tiring Wanneroo side couldn’t raise a gallop at all and the referee blew for full time, 18 points 10.
This was a fairly dour tussle with some serious physicality on show. For the first time all year the Cottesloe scrum was bested, but like all good championship contenders from all sports, we found other ways to win. Ivan Fepuleai was extremely physical in defence alongside Tobias Hoskins and Jordie Bungard. In the backs, Sean Martin marshalled his forces superbly and Nili Fielea carried relentlessly for the 80 minutes. Zubayr Abrahams’ kick chase was admirable throughout as he turned good kicks into great ones with his pressure. For this writer though the best player on the field was Simi Verata. The mercurial Fijian was at the centre of all Cottesloe’s attacking play as he sidestepped his way down the field, carrying the ball like a loaf of bread. His work in the lineout was exemplary also. An anecdote: around five years ago this writer played in a backline for ressies alongside Simi and the coach at the time, Cornell Wolmarans, selected Simi at centre. An unnamed player complained to said coach at half time that Simi was not following the calls and doing his own thing and was being very unpredictable in his play. To which Cornell responded, if you have no idea what Simi is going to do next, how do you think the other team feel?! That’s what Simi Verata brings to the two blue, that magical bit of unpredictability.
This week, Cottesloe begin their super 6 journey with a trip to the formidable bone yard to take on champions Associates in the battle of Broome Street. As usual the boys will be ready to roll.