Souths 1st team had it all to play for. However slight a chance, it was there with a bonus point win meaning the possibility of 2nd spot on the ladder and a Major semi final spot against either Joondalup or Curtin. Mandurah, although mathematically possible, needed a cricket score for them to force their way into a finals berth.
If the centre pairing in the 4th grade game had led the way, the 15 in this game would be starring in his own show. Ray Nell, an enigma of a back at times, was devastating with ball in hand and from the boot, amassing all but 5 of his team’s points. As the half started, Souths would be quickly turning to their fullback as Mandurah raced into an early need. Maybe the enormity of their task or the earlier kick-off had hampered their pre-match preparations, but nothing would click as a Mandurah side, many of which had played in the earlier game against Souths 4ths, continued to attack and came away with two earlier scores one of which was converted. On the way to his total, Nell ended the half with a penalty goal to keep Souths in touch.
As on many, too many, occasions this season the second stanza was in stark contrast to the first. Souths asserted the kind of dominance which showed they could beat anyone one their day. Set piece domination starved the tiring Mandurah backs of the ball and in the hands of Ray Nell, Dan Hutton and stand-in 10 Willie Lio, Souths started and stayed on the front foot. Captain Kori Cooper, back to his normal position of 8, picked intelligently and Ray Medway freshly rested after his late season sojourn to Melbourne made his presence felt in the loose, displaying a new found athleticism. Gathering a short kick-off he stormed through the on-rushing Mandurah pack and brought a favourable confrontation with the opposition 14. Scrambling from Mandurah prevented the score coming sooner but when it did it was only what Souths had deserved. Truly back in contention, it was time for the boot of Nell to decide the game. 4 more unanswered penalties added to the conversion. Ending his prolific stint in style, a late drop goal sailed through the uprights pushing out South’s score line to an unassailable position.
25-15 saw Souths cemented in 4th spot, meaning more Rugby in store for South’s senior outfit over the next month. With such a close competition in 3rd grade Gold meaning Joondalup took out the minor premiership only 3 points in front of Souths, both grades still have everything to play for.
The 3rd grade play against Arks in the Minor semi-final on Sunday 22 August at Rockingham.