10 Sept 2021
Match Report - Rugby WA Womens Rugby Union Final Cottesloe V Wanneroo by Connor Brennan Photos True Spirit Photos
Cottesloe Ladies are the 2021 champions after snatching victory from the jaws of defeat at Kalamunda on Saturday afternoon. Against a powerful and physical Wanneroo Divaz side, it took everything they had to achieve victory and three minutes into injury time they came up with a spectacular try to win on a score of 18 points to 12.
Cottesloe began the game playing against the breeze with the sun on their backs. The early exchanges were a little bit frantic as both forward packs took a good look at each other. It was the Divaz who dominated the early exchanges as they were able to capitalise on a number of handling errors to gain access into the Cottesloe 22. On 7 minutes the ladies in green and white were the first score when Oklea Jones was the beneficiary of an overlap in the left corner and dotted down to score. The conversion was missed but the Divaz had a 5-0 lead. The score sent a shockwave through the Shegulls and all the big guns knuckled down and got to work. Bec Clough repeatedly challenged the Wanneroo midfield while Nia Schaaf-Taufa appeared to take every third carry for Cottesloe. Kristin “Canada” Fairbairn lorded the skies and Kendra Fell began to swing the ball left and right. A Cottesloe maul was disrupted successfully on 10 minutes by Wanneroo five metres out from the Divaz line. They then attempted to play their way out of their own territory, declining to use the boot and it allowed Mahalia Ellis to have a crack at the ball on the deck. She won the penalty and Kendra Fell elected to send it between the sticks for 5-3.
Cottesloe enjoyed a spell of possession for the next five minutes until a major turning point occurred. One of the Divaz prop forwards came steaming out of the line and put a high blindside shot on the head of Mahalia Ellis as she was receiving a pass. The referee did not hesitate and reached for his pocket. It was a red card and Wanneroo were reduced to 14 players. As so often happens in our sport, this dismissal appeared to galvanise Wanneroo and their big forwards looked to carry with a berserk rage. They battered their way inside the Cott 22 and on 30 minutes their lively halfback burrowed her way over to dot down. The try was converted and the score was 12-3 at the break. Cottesloe looked to return fire before the half time whistle through Cella O’Callaghan and Jan Farrell but Wanneroo succeeded in killing the ball and when the whistle went for the break the Divaz were ahead 12-3.
With 9 points to get back, Cottesloe begun the second half attacking the Wanneroo set-piece. Yolanda Forsyth and Kristin Fairbairn troubled the Wanneroo lineout while Orlagh Ryan entered the fray and used her strength and experience to diffuse the Divaz scrum. Bec Clough and Mahalia Ellis threatened the advantage line on every carry and Jan Farrell, ever so slowly, began to impose herself on the Wanneroo midfield. Wanneroo’s backrow were able to defy Cottesloe for almost 20 minutes through gruelling defence and stamina sapping carries inside their own half against the wind. On 52 minutes another turning point occurred. Mahalia Ellis put her head into a dark place and courageously won a kickable chance for Kendra Fell. It was converted and suddenly Cottesloe were only 6 points down at 12-6. Shortly afterwards Stacey Avery received a team yellow card for the Shegulls, reducing them to 14 players for the next ten minutes but the tide had definitively turned. Wanneroo’s energy levels were severely compromised, the toll of the early red card playing heavy on their legs. Shots that were dominant in the first half were now jaded and required assistance from a second defender more often than not. Cottesloe’s scrum and lineout were utterly on top by this point too and Wanneroo braced themselves for a siege. And then Cottesloe elected to go to war.
As time ticked away, the Cottesloe forwards and midfield attempted to bludgeon their way through. Nia Schaaf-Taufa demanded the football at all times and newly introduced Charlotte Kennington looked dangerous when in possession. The Divaz defence unbelievably held firm until the 34th minute when Nia Schaaf-Taufa bashed her way over the line to score, making it 12-11 to Wanneroo. The referee informed kicker Kendra Fell that there would be one more play after the conversion attempt which was missed. With everything on the line, Wanneroo kicked deep and Cottesloe attempted to go coast to coast to win the championship. 14 phases later, Bec Clough took it to the Wanneroo 22. She released Mahalia Ellis on her inside who cut the Wanneroo midfield to shreds. She released Emma Decupper who passed to Jan Farrell on the right. Jan drew the last defender and passed a glorious ball to substitute Charlotte Kennington who ran in unopposed under the sticks to win the championship for Cottesloe. The whistle went three minutes into injury time and the 2021 champions were Cottesloe on score of 18 points to 12.
There are many words in Rugby Union football for the 200 odd years it has existed, that have been used to describe what amounts to the same thing: bottle, nerve, fortitude and a few other cruder terms. Whatever this intangible quality actually should be called, this Shegulls side has buckets of it. Admittedly Wanneroo played two thirds of the encounter short of player, but that was not our ladies fault; our ladies could only look to things they could control. Wanneroo were titanic in defence. They more or less were cooked with 20 minutes to go but held on to the bitter end, only breaking in injury time. The Shegulls had to go coast to coast from a kick off in injury time, with flawless handling, knowing that the simplest mistake would lose them the championship; but they stood and delivered as so many women have done for Cottesloe, for 25 years.
Firstly for Wanneroo, Sarah Ah Sam was monumental up front and Trilleen Pomare was heroic in the midfield. Young guns Aiysha Wigley and Tamika Jones were tremendous as well. For Cottesloe, Karlien van Wyk, Millie Williamson and Nia Schaaf-Taufa wore down their opponents with their indomitable carrying, while Sofia Bekir-Fuente, Kirsty Hadfield, Sadie Putz and Orlagh Ryan put a collective dent in Wanneroo’s stores of stamina. Kristin Fairbairn was held together with tape and had the courage to battle onward while Yolanda Forsyth mid match also displayed the courage required to change up the lineout and rectify that set-piece for her team. Emma Decupper was electric with the ball while Bec Clough was at her belligerent best drawing defenders to her like flies to honey. In the backs all four wingers who played a part, subs and starters, were defensively sound while Bree Wallace and Charlotte Kennington upped the tempo whenever either were in possession, Charlotte succeeded in scoring the winning try in the process. Langley Sesega and Jan Farrell had to face off versus Trilleen Pomare and Aiysha Wigley in a battle for the ages, more than holding their own in every department. While Stacey Avery and Kendra Fell showed their composure and skill right at the end when their team needed them the most. For this writer though, the player who stood out was Mahalia Ellis. It was her who put her head over the ball twice to earn the two kickable penalties. It was her who got vaporised for her team, that earned Wanneroo a red card. And it was her who finally made the breach in the Wanneroo defence that allowed Cottesloe to score and win the championship. Mahalia Ellis is a marvellous footballer and her performance in the final, only puts an exclamation point on her terrific season. Superb from Mahalia.
Over and out,