Premiers Cottesloe survived a strong challenge from Kalamunda for a close 16-12 win at Hartfield today in the RugbyWA club competition
The Bulls outscored the Seagulls two tries to one and should have scored a couple more in an untidy, disjointed game, but the premiers' composure and solid defence kept the home side at bay, while the reliable boot of flyhalf Dave Cloete provided the points.
Cottesloe led 13-7 at half time while the Bulls had marginally more of the play, but a big second half by the home side wasn't quite enough to get them over the line.
Cott opened strongly but within minutes Kalamunda turned over and their left wing shot down the sideline, handing back in to fullback Willy Hall. But just when a try under the bar looked inevitable Hall lost the ball and Cottesloe worked clear.
Then after 15 minutes Kalamunda were penalised for pushing in the lineout and Cottesloe kicking machine Cloete effortlessly slotted the slightly angled 30 metre goal.
Six minutes later Cottesloe won a scrum after Kalamunda knocked on just over their 22, and number 8 Colin Hodson peeled off, looking to feed halfback Mark Swanepoel who had drifted wide. But instead Hodson shot through the distracted Bulls defence for a clear run to the line and an insultingly easy try. Cloete converted an identical kick to his earlier penalty and the premiers were 10-0 up, despite Kalamunda having marginally the better in general play, except in the lineouts.
But the Bulls kept giving 100 percent, putting in big hits in defence and probing for gaps, and after 33 minutes Hall broke loose on the blind from Kalamunda's half and with an unmarked wing outside him a try seemed certain. But he passed inside instead and the movement died short of the try line.
This time the Bulls stayed on attack, turned over Cottesloe ball to ruck up to Cottesloe's line and halfback Troy Skiba plunged over for a try out wide. Hall converted superbly from the sideline and the Bulls were right in it 10-7 with half time minutes away.
However, Cloete gave Cottesloe a safety margin two minutes later with a sharply angled 35 metre penalty goal and Cott went into the break 13-7 ahead on the scoreboard, but nothing in it on the field.
Kalamunda roared into the second half and declined an easy penalty kick after four munutes to kick for the line, but despite patient phases of attack were eventually penalised for hands in the ruck and the Seagulls escaped.
It took Cottesloe ten minutes to get out of their half and they worked downfield where Cloete kept the scoreboard ticking over with a moderate penalty goal for offside after 17 minutes.
The Bulls threw everything into the match, competing fiercely, keeping Cottesloe off balance and working hard in defence as well. But the Bulls' helter skelter attack was also their weakness, losing continuity and giving away possession during wilder phases of attack.
Cottesloe used one error to make ground, Cloete conceding a rare penalty goal miss from a readily kickable position after 27 minutes. But the Seagulls stayed on attack and drove over from a lineout close to the line only to be held up.
Cloete tried a drop goal with time running out but the Bulls stormed back, running everything from everywhere until flanker Nathan Swayne charged over as the ball went wide from a tap penalty. However the conversion missed and full time followed immediately.
While Cottesloe coach Ian Fowler was pleased with the result, he admitted to concerns about the game.
"They're a hard team for us to play against," he said.
"We might have come here trying too much to counter them and not do what we wanted to do.
"We spent a fair bit of time on stopping them, and I think we did that."
Fowler denied that Kalamunda's unpredictable, free-ranging attack caught his team off balance.
"No, we knew what they were going to do," he said.
"They didn't run through us, they didn't get around us."
Neither was it a problem to maintain his team's focus after last week's big game against Nedlands, Fowler said.
"This was personal for us," he said.
"We haven't beaten them before, we trained really well and we trained really hard.
"We weren't happy with our game last week and we wanted to improve."
Fowler nominated his team's defence as their best facet in the game.
"Our line speed shut them down, they weren't able to go side to side," he said.
"We put a lot of pressure on their ball players, they couldn't get where they wanted to get to."
Fowler named lock Kieran Stringer, prop Mark Darling, flanker Ryan Hodson and quiet achiever centre Sam Rarasea as his standout players.
"Sam runs our defence, the guys really respect the work he does," he said.
In other games, Wests-Subiaco reached a season high with a 32-7 win over Rockingham at Rosalie Park, second-placed Nedlands ran riot at Sir Charles Court Reserve 55-2 over University, fourth-placed Palmyra was restricted to a close 22-16 win over Perth-Bayswater at Pat O'Hara Reserve, and fifth-placed Associates dropped Wanneroo to sixth with a 29-23 win at Kingsway.
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