Shute Shield: Late Surge Sees Rats Hold Off West Harbour
by Brendan Bradford –
Doubles to Warringah centre Michael Adams and fullback Dave Feltscheer have helped the Rats to a Round One, 39-18 win over West Harbour at Rat Park.
The home-side led 12-8 after a cagey opening 40 and the match was still in the balance at 24-18 with less than a quarter of an hour to play. That score-line was probably a fairer reflection of the game but late five-pointers to Josh Holmes and Feltscheer shot the margin out to its 21-point conclusion.
“It was one of those games that really broke open at the end with some boys getting tired,” said Warringah captain Luke Holmes.
“We had the legs to finish it off and it’s a good way to start the season. We usually have a little trouble against West Harbour, they like to move the ball around, but I think we play a pretty similar style and we tried to play a free-flowing game, which is when we’re best.”
Feltscheer, Adams and open side flanker Sam Ward were standouts for Warringah while flyhalf Josh Gillard guided the side around in a composed performance in his run-on first-grade debut.
A cursory glance at the score suggests West Harbour were put to the sword, but it was more a matter of missed chances and fatigue in the final five rather than a 20-point drubbing.
“We pressed a little towards the end and they got a breakaway try and an intercept but I don’t think the score-line really reflected how tough and tight the match was,” said West Harbour coach Matt Briggs.
“I actually think we had a lot of dominance in the first half, but we just didn’t complete or execute as well as we should have. That always comes back to bite you.”
On the other hand, Warringah made the most of every little opportunity, nabbing two run-aways and capitalising on some tiring defence. But that’s not something they want to rely on, said Feltscheer.
“We’d probably rather score some well-worked tries than long range, flukey tries, but it’s always good to get on the board early in the season when we needed it,” he said.
“The game was in the balance there in the last 15, so to be able to help out with some long range tries, I’ll take it.”
It was a tight encounter for the opening ten minutes as the Pirates kept the ball close, used Dave Harvey’s boot and a healthy wind to maintain field position.
Warringah’s Fijian winger Sireli Tagicakibau took advantage of a two-man overlap on the right wing to open the Rats’ scoring for the season.
Gillard missed the conversion, Harvey landed an easy penalty and Bradford Kapa barrelled over in the right hand corner for the Pirates’ first lead of the match just after the half hour mark.
It was short lived though as Josh Holmes sparked a move out wide to reclaim Warringah’s advantage. Spotting two props on the flank and the winger sitting deep, Holmes heaved a 30m cut-out pass to winger Brad Dixon which put the NZ-born flyer in enough space to evade Rory Sidey’s lunging tackle. Dixon passed inside to Holmes who drew the last defender and offloaded to Adams for his first of the afternoon.
“You’d struggle to find a guy who could stop Brad Dixon in a one-on-one, his feet are magnificent,” said Holmes afterwards.
“I saw the winger, I saw Dicko and threw the long ball and just backed up. The boys have been playing together for a few years and we play touch footy over the summer too, so we’ve got good combinations.”
Warringah went into the sheds with a hard-earned 12-8 advantage and left the Pirates to ponder what might have been after they’d played with a strong wind at their backs in the opening stanza.
“The wind was really good in the first half and maybe I under-utilised it and should have capitalised a bit more and hit the corners,” said Dave Harvey after his first game in West Harbour colours having played for the Rats last year.
“There wasn’t too much banter out on the field. I really enjoyed playing here, all the boys are really good, but the unfortunate thing is that it was too far away. It took about an hour and 20 to get to training.”
The action-packed second forty started with the drama of a missed drop ball in the lead-up to West Harbour’s only try of the half. Gillard seemed to have forced a knock-on in a powerful tackle ten meters out from the line but the ref waved play on and hooker Ryan Dalziel strolled over for an easy try amid the Warringah protests.
They had the lead, but that was about as good as it got on the scoreboard for the Pirates as Adams crashed over for his second try after a brilliant short ball from Gillard to inside-centre Chris Arnold following an attacking scrum.
“Every time I pumped to throw the ball long in the first half, they’d peel out really quick,” said Gillard.
“So I just pumped long, dropped it short and they fell for it. I’ve got a few areas I can tidy up on, but it didn’t go too bad.”
Feltscheer scored his first shortly after when he regathered a kick on halfway and won a close foot-race to the line for a 24-15 lead.
Another Harvey penalty clawed the gap back, but 18-year old Warringah whizz-kid Harry Jones scored a three-pointer of his own and when Josh Holmes outmuscled four defenders on a 15-meter run to the line, the match had slipped away from the visitors.
In the shadows of fulltime, Feltscheer nabbed an intercept for another long-range try and the 39-18 win.
Warringah go to second place on the ladder and travel to Forshaw Park to play Southern Districts next weekend while West Harbour host Penrith at Concord Oval.
Warringah 39 (Michael Adams 2, David Feltscheer 2, Sireli Tagicakibau, Josh Holmes tries; Josh Gillard 3 cons, Harry Jones pen) defeated West Harbour 19 (Bradford Kapa, Ryan Dalziel tries; Dave Harvey 4 pens )