Rugby: Palmyra clinches minor premiership after the siren

ARKS are out of the semi-finals
ARKS are out of the semi-finals

A DAVE Neilson penalty after the siren helped Palmyra clinch the minor premiership and home field advantage throughout the finals after downing Wests Scarborough 27-26 at Bennett Park on Saturday.

Pally entered the top-of-the-table clash knowing that a Wests victory could open the door to the reigning premiers nabbing top spot in the final round of the regular season next weekend.

Palmyra started much stronger and wing Michael Fotu crashed over in the corner in the seventh minute to take an early lead.

Wests struck back with a penalty to fly half Walter Koteka before Palmyra lock and Western Force player Onehunga Havili drove over from short range after sustained pressure by the Pally forward pack.

Palmyra’s defensive effort shut Wests out for much of the first half and the constant pressure paid off when flanker Joel Winterburn charged down a Wests clearing kick to score, taking the score to 17-3.

Wests fullback Jarome Leonard-Tekanawa then got his side back into the game with a superb individual try, scooping the ball up from a Palmyra clearing kick before chipping over the advancing Pally defence to score.

On the stroke of half-time Palmyra winger Fotu was able to burst through a couple of Wests defenders to cross for his second try, which fly-half Sam Jurisich converted to take Palmyra to a 24-10 lead at the break.

Pally was playing into a blustering wind in the second half and two early penalties to Wests cut the lead to 24-16, with momentum swinging back to the home side.

Koteka converted another penalty with 15 minutes to go before Wests prop Nick McLennan barged his way over with eight minutes left on the clock.

When Koteka converted, it appeared the home side would steal victory from a gutsy Palmyra who had led all game, but there was one final twist left in the game.

With no time left on the clock, Havili was able to break clear up the left side, taking Pally deep into the home side’s 22.

A ruck formed in front of the posts and Wests were penalised for an infringement, replacement fly-half Neilson stepping up to win the game.

In other matches, Palmyra reserves overcame Wests 38-17, thirds won 28-3 and the women’s team continued their winning run with a hard-fought 17-10 victory over Nedlands.