Fans and viewers were always going to be entertained at North Ipswich Reserve on Sunday afternoon for the first elimination final between the Ipswich Jets and Northern Pride, and no one would have been disappointed in the action on offer in a point a minute classic attacking rugby league game.
There were indeed plenty of tries, and some of them full of individual brilliance and of the highest quality, but the end score line of 54-26 was a little unflattering for the Pride who had been in the game for the majority.
Whilst the Walker brothers missed out of the Newcastle Knights job during the week, their team showed that they might be worth taking a risk on by a forward thinking NRL club in the future.
The early part of the game was all about the Jets, and after a few near misses and repeat sets got their first try through Billy McConnachie and led 6-0 after 6 minutes.
The Jets went length of the field from the kick off and ended with a dropout from the Pride, and soon turned that into try number two courtesy of Manly bound hooker Matt Parcell from the next set. The next try required one fewer set as the Jets took just a handful of tackles from the kick off through some Carlin Anderson and Marmin Barba magic to score their third try. 18-0 was the score line at this point.
The Pride, having weathered the storm, finally got the ball inside Ipswich’s 20m and turned it immediately into point as Brett Anderson crashed over in the 18th minute, reducing the score to 18-4. That score should have been reduced even further in the Pride’s favour not long after but they butchered a certain try as the final pass ended up in the Jet’s hands.
The margin did reduce a few minutes later as Javid Bowen scored beside the posts and in the 25th minute it was 18-10. A 50-50 penalty to the Jets was all the advantage Ipswich needed to get their half back on track as they scored their 4th try through Josh Cleeland and stretched the lead back out to 14 points. The Pride then got some advantage of the whistle with back to back penalties leading to a Pride reply in the 35th minute from Ben Spina. The score line of 24-16 remained until the break, a point a minute first half.
With the game in the balance you think that Ipswich’s kick off to the second half may have been standard issue with a blast into the Pride’s in goal, but if you’ve seen enough Ipswich games this year you won’t be surprised that a short 15m kick off and some AFL style exchanges ensued before coming down in the Pride’s favour.
Another thing that wasn’t a surprise was the Jets next try which featured their lateral running until they found a gap, strong run from Valekapa down the sideline, some Marmin Barba pace and a perfect inside kick and the Ipswich halfback Dane Phillips to scoop up the ball like it was all planned. It was 30-16 with 5 minutes gone in the second half. The Pride however were not about to lie down, and they responded just a few minutes late with a clever blind side kick that ended up with a second Brett Anderson try. The missed conversion left the score 30-20.
The try of the match and arguably the season came four minutes later when a typical darting dummy half run from Matt Parcell found Carlin Anderson 50m out in the middle of the park, and former soccer star Anderson put the boot to the ball four times in a row and won the race to the ball to score his second try and push the margin out to 16 points with 26 to go.
The smile of the day, well for everyone except Marmin Barba, came in the 59th minute as both he and Carlin Anderson fought to catch the same bomb and Barba coming off significantly worse with a blow to a very sensitive area. Ironically on Father’s day as the blow looked like one that could have excluded poor Marmin from future celebrations.
The Pride made the entire Jets side grimace not long after they cleaned up a midfield bomb and a few tackles later Brett Anderson scored his third of the day, and with conversion it was 36-26 with just under 20 minutes to play. That scoreboard pressure produced something strange from the Jets restart – they actually unleashed a standard 50m kick off as the Jets gave the Pride the respect they deserved.
It was not long after that restart where one the most controversial pieces of action was played out. What looked a regulation dropped ball from the Pride 10 metres out was on replay to show that Marmin Barba ripped the ball out and the Pride player was first to place the ball. An Ipswich scrum was packed, but at 36-26 with 17 to play a four point ballgame may well have changed the outcome. Hard to pick faults though, and the Queensland Cup proves that one referee works on most occasions. The back and forth with the video referee for decisions is such a simple but effective addition to the broadcast that the NRL miss.
Ipswich took full advantage of the decision and not long after Matt Parcell dived on the perfect grubber to score and turn around what could have been a 4 point margin to 42-26 score line with seven minutes to go. Ipswich rubbed salt into the Pride’s wounds a few minutes later as the Jets capitalised on a Pride mistake and a selfless Marmin Barba gave up a certain four pointer to hand the retiring Keiron Lander a rare try passing the ball to his captain in the in goal.
He was rewarded seconds before full time with his first try of the game after a try that started 70m out in the style one has come to expect from the Jets. His 28th try of the season was a record for Ipswich.
Northern Pride were brave and that contentious decision may well have swung things in the favour. As it was Ipswich had a little too much firepower and the late try scoring gave them a flattering score line and win to take into another week of elimination next weekend. This time they will meet the Easts Tigers. The game will be live on Channel/WIN Qld and replayed on Foxtel, and if it is anything like their previous clash at Tapout Energy Stadium it will be one not to miss.
Tries: Carlin Anderson 2, Matt Parcell 2, Marmin Barba, Josh Cleeland, Dane Phillips, Keiron Lander, Billy McConnachie
Goals: Carlin Anderson 9
NORTHERN PRIDE 26
Tries: Brett Anderson 3, Javid Bowen, Ben Spina
Goals: Justin Castellaro 3