THE SOUTHS Sharks’ hopes of winning their fifth consecutive Mackay and District Rugby League A-Grade Premiership is under immediate jeopardy as they fell to a heavy defeat at the hands of a disciplined Whitsunday Brahmans outfit on Sunday afternoon.
The Mackay Junior Rugby League Grounds were filled with fans as the Mine Wealth + Wellbeing Cup Qualifying Final commenced with the second placed Sharks up against the third placed Brahmans.
Whitsunday were determined to get a jump on their more fancied rivals in the opening exchanges, and that’s exactly what they did when Michael Newman regathered his own chip kick to the in-goal to give the visitors an early 4-0 advantage.
Some hard running from Whitsunday’s big men had the Souths team reeling, and a powerful surge by Rohan Ahern straight through the heart of the Souths defensive line saw him go clear on a 60 metre run.
Darcy Wright charged at the try line on the following play and got a miraculous flick pass out behind himself for his halfback Phil Ramage to dot down under the posts amidst some scrambling Sharks defence. He converted his own try to push the margin out to 10 points.
The Whitsunday forwards were relentless as the Brahmans looked to seize the momentum of the game, with the Sharks players began to tire under the defensive workload they were being put under.
Grant Cooke slammed his way through the middle of the Sharks defensive line and burst clear for a massive gain. The Sharks defenders never had a chance to recover as a lightning quick play the ball saw Whitsunday hooker Sam Key slither through the legs of two Sharks players to score yet another converted try for the visitors.
Souths were desperately lucky not to concede again before halftime, as a huge run from Isaac Richardson off a short pass had the Sharks at sixes and sevens before a determined tackle dragged the big man down just metres from the try line. Souths at least made sure they weren’t going to be kept scoreless, with Grant Rovelli slotting a long range penalty goal as the halftime siren sounded to make the score 16-2 in favour of the Brahmans at the break.
Despite no doubt copping a spray at halftime from Coach Michael Comerford, it was more of the same from the Sharks after oranges as they made crucial errors and gave away silly penalties and easy field position to their rivals.
Whitsunday second rower Darcy Wright needed no second invitation and after setting a try up earlier in the game he decided to score one himself with a neat dummy-and-go past some lackadaisical Sharks defence. A successful conversion from Ramage pushed the margin to an even 20 points.
But the visitors weren’t done, scoring two quick-fire tries to blow the game wide open. Five-Eighth Dane Vardanega got a well-deserved tally in the try column for himself as he raced onto a short ball to score, before Isaac Richardson showed he wasn’t going to be denied twice in the game, bagging a four pointer as well as the Brahmans put the champs to the sword. Ramage had his kicking boots on as he converted both tries to blow the score out to 34 points to 2.
After being battered around for the best part of an hour Souths finally managed to cross the try line with Curtis Cunningham scoring off a deft pass from Rovelli. The conversion wasn’t as pretty, sailing wide of the posts to keep the score at 34-6.
Showing they were still a dangerous side despite the score line the Sharks went on the attack as the final minutes of the game approached. After setting the first Souths try up, Grant Rovelli showed his team how it was done, doing it all himself with a spectacular solo effort.
Running to the Whitsunday defensive line on the last tackle Rovelli chipped ahead for himself, got his boot to the ball on the half-volley and grubbered the ball into the in goal area, before planting the ball down inches inside the dead ball line for the final try of the game. He converted his own try, but it was little consolation for the Sharks players as fulltime was signalled.
Whitsunday had claimed a massive scalp with their 34 points to 12 win and move on to face the Sarina Crocodiles for a spot in the MDRL Grand Final. Meanwhile, Souths face Wests Tigers in the Elimination Final after Wests eliminated the Magpies earlier in the day with a 38-24 triumph.