Townsville Blackhawks stormed into the Intrust Super Cup Grand Final in their first season as they displayed all the qualities that had seen them become minor premiers against the PNG Hunters at Jack Manski Oval in Townsville on Saturday evening.
The Blackhawks, who had yet to beat the PNG side in two close meetings in the regular season, were dominant throughout the game, and only some wayward goal kicking kept the score line tighter than the game actually was. For the Hunters it was a shattering dose of reality of Queensland Cup finals, and it was their first loss against anyone since April as they had been on an unbeaten streak since Round 6.
The first section of the game was Townsville, and literally so, as the Blackhawks had all the ball for well over the first five minutes, scoring two tries on the back of some great ball movement and clever work for repeat sets. The first try came to Zac Santo in the 4th minute and he doubled his tally just three minutes later and the score was 8-0 and the signs were ominous from the Blackhakws who had some big wins in Townsville throughout 2015.
The Hunters didn’t help themselves throughout the game, and this was typified when they got the ball for the first after many minutes of Townsville dominance, they dropped the ball on the first play. Whether it was just early nerves in such a big game, that was to be seen, but they got on the scoreboard in the 25th minute through Ase Boas and the successful conversion made it just a 2 point margin.
Once the Hunters got warmed up it was end to end football that this game promised before the game, but the Blackhawks were next to score 10 minutes later through Tom Humble through a forceful run close to the line, and the only successful Townsville conversion took the score to 14-6 which remained until half time despite both sides efforts.
The PNG side needed to come out in the second half in the style that Townsville did in the first, but it was the home side that scored first through Zac Santo completing his hat trick. With another sideline conversion missed it was 18-6 with 30 minutes left. That gave the Hunters a little window of opportunity, a gift they accepted 7 minutes later through a Korave try and Noel Zemming’s conversion made it an unlikely 18-12 score line with 23 minutes to go given Townsville having the upper hand.
The arm wrestle continued, and as hard as the Hunters tried it was one of those days where the passes weren’t sticking, and Townsville took advantage of the extra ball by running in another try in the 68th minute, once again to Zac Santo who scored his fourth try of the day. Another missed conversion left the door open still for the Hunters with just over 10 minutes to play. It looked unlikely on the balance of the game, and the home side confirmed the result with a final try to Pangai with a few minutes remaining. Another missed conversion didn’t matter for the result, but it allowed the 26-12 score line to flatter PNG. An improvement on the goal kicking will be needed for the Grand Final as it could cost them more in a closer match on a grander scale.
Maybe the NRL experience showed the way for the Townsville side who had two players from winning NRL Grand Finals, and the considerable pressure of expectation from an entire nation may have hurt the Hunters on Saturday.
The Blackhawks can now relax for a week and plan for their first Grand Final dreaming of a title in their first year, and on current form will trouble any side from the NSW Cup on NRL Grand Final day. For the Hunters they at least get second chance next week against either Ipswich or Easts, to be played at neutral BMD Kougari Oval, home of Wynnum. The travel to Brisbane is not much of a reward for a team who finished one point shy of the minor premiership, but the second chance is. Easts and Ipswich however will fancy their chances next week if the Hunters play similar to Saturday.
TOWNSVILLE BLACKHAWKS 26
Tries: Zac Santo 4, Tom Humble, Mosese Pangai
Goals: Robert Lui
PNG HUNTERS 12
Tries: Adex Wera, Adam Korave
Goals: Noel Zeming 2
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