Marauding Pirates plunder Rats’ leaky ship
Photo: Karen Watson
West Harbour have lifted themselves into the top five after another high-scoring encounter saw them outgun Warringah 46-40 at Rat Park. The Pirates are certainly the side to watch if it’s tries you’re after, with their matches averaging 66pts per game so far. But after sharing 12 tries with the Rats in this feast of running rugby, it was a determined defensive effort in the last quarter and the boot of young flyhalf Jack Debreczeni that got them home.
In a crazy, see-sawing match, the visitors blasted their way to a 17-5 lead inside 15 minutes, only to be pegged back and overtaken by three converted tries from a Warringah side stung into action. When the hosts then extended that advantage to 40-25 just before the hour, it looked like they may go on with the job. But a combination of dazzling attack and lacklustre defence produced three more tries for the Pirates, before they finally held firm for the closing quarter to seal the win.
The fact that they are 5th but only bottom side Penrith have conceded more points, tells you a lot about West Harbour’s season. It’s a statistic that wasn’t lost on head coach Matt Briggs at the final whistle – after he’d clarified their ladder position.
“Actually, I think we’re now equal 4th with Uni on points – the boys would kill me if I didn’t say that!” he joked. “It is quite incredible really to be leaking so many points and be where we are, and we can’t sustain the pressure we are putting on ourselves by doing that and expect to keep winning. But I’d say that the last twenty minutes was our best defensive work of the year.”
Restarts appear to be a problem, and an inability to maintain focus after scoring a try is proving a frustration for Briggs. But he’s more than happy with what he sees in attack.
“We keep letting teams back in and that’s just not good enough. I put it down to a lack of desperation in getting back down to our own twenty-two after we have scored. Players are still thinking about what they’ve done instead of what needs to be done, but we’ll continue to work hard on that. On a real positive, I can’t knock how the boys have adapted to our new designs in attack, they love it. But I still want them to continue to develop in that area as well.”
Having watched his side produce arguably their best attacking display of the year, Rats coach Haig Sare was left to rue what might have been. But while he was frustrated with the mistakes that gifted the visitors the win, he couldn’t deny the Pirates their time in the sun.
“To score 40pts and still lose is disappointing,” he conceded. “We said at half-time that we have to starve these boys of ball because they’ve got a heap of points in them. But in the last twenty minutes we made about three errors in a row, which handed the ball back to them and resulted in three tries. We wanted to have a crack here and show the wider range of skill sets that we’ve got. But in doing so, the focus in defence just went out the window.”
It had all started so well too, Conrad Gillingham using a decoy runner to streak through unhindered after only two minutes. But only four minutes later, Wests hit back after fullback Dylan Taikato-Simpson found himself at first receiver near the line, and popped up a short ball for no.8 Vaka Manu to crash over.
It soon became clear that the Rats were struggling to cope with the pace, handling and movement of the Pirates attack, who were stretching them across the park and finding gaps. And 10 more points by the 15 minute mark had the locals furrowing their brows.
Debreczeni put prop Vaughan Lomax through a gap from five metres out before he added a penalty himself to make it 17-5, but it was at that point that their vulnerabilities started to surface. Straight from the restart the Pirates switched off, allowing an electric counter-attack from his own half by Dave Feltscheer to go uncontested, before the speedster released winger Brad Dixon to the line.
The try put Wests on the back foot and opened the gates for the Rats to cut loose, smarting no doubt at their earlier fragility. A trademark dart from the back of the ruck from Josh Holmes drew them level, before another half-break from Feltscheer allowed Holmes to feed the rangy Ben Adams into the corner. Dave Harvey converted three from four, and the home side went to the sheds with a nine-point advantage at 26-17.
An early penalty from Debreczeni after the break renewed the Pirates spirits, and was reward for an increasingly dominant scrum. But it was quickly usurped by the individual try of the match from Dixon. Picking possession up on halfway, he stepped through a gap near the ruck before putting some nice footwork on another defender, and had enough pace to scoot away to the chalk for his second.
The Rats were in control of the game at that point as a couple of indiscretions at the breakdown stifled any progress from the Pirates, but their ability to produce tries out of nothing got them back in the game again. Tito Mua was on hand this time to dot down after some individual brilliance down the touchline from Taikato-Simpson. However, Warringah will be mightily disappointed with their efforts.
Defence was seemingly an afterthought for both sides now, and a try apiece in the next five minutes – Michael Adams putting Dixon in for his hat-trick after the Pirates knocked on at the restart, and Mua responding by swerving his way past four non-existent tackles – left a 40-32 scoreline. And there was still 20 minutes to go!
The visitors smelled blood in the water and finished off the scoring with a quickfire double in the 60th and 66th minutes. Prop Dave Lolohea wasn’t going to be stopped from two metres out after good work from Henry Seavula, before replacement Shaun Treweek had the final say, plucking a stray Rats pass from the air to run half the field and then some before to dive for the line and with it, the victory.
If they can produce the desire, tenacity and application shown in those closing stages across the full 80 minutes – and tighten up that defence – this Wests team will be a hard one to hold down.
WEST HARBOUR 46 (Tito Mua 2, Vaka Manu, Vaughan Lomax, David Lolohea, Shaun Treweek tries, Jack Debreczeni 5 cons, 2 pens) defeated WARRINGAH 40 (Brad Dixon 3, Conrad Gillingham, Josh Holmes, Ben Adams tries, David Harvey 5 cons) at Pittwater Rugby Park
WARRINGAH: 1. Ben Ryan; 2. Luke Holmes; 3. Wayne Borsak; 4. Ben Adams; 5. Vincent Wright; 6. Sam Ward; 7. Mark Porpiglia; 8. Jake Butcher; 9. Josh Holmes; 10. Dave Harvey; 11. Brad Dixon; 12. Ed Doyle; 13. Tevita Talisonua; 14. Conrad Gillingham; 15. Dave Feltscheer
WEST HARBOUR: 1. Dave Lolohea; 2. Reg De Jager (c); 3. Vaughan Lomax; 4. Alfred Pinomi; 5. Chris Simmons; 6. Matt Coles; 7. Cohen Masson; 8. Vaka Manu; 9. David Osofua; 10. Jack Debreczeni; 11. Tito Mua; 12. Winston Wilson; 13. Henry Seavula; 14. Alofa Alofa; 15. Dylan Taikato-Simpson
First published by Rugby News on: May 22nd, 2013