The Ipswich jets claimed their first title since joining the top Queensland competition in 1982 with a 32-20 win over the minor premiers Townsville Blackhawks who were looking for a title in their season. In an entertaining clash in front of a healthy crowd of 8,086 the Jets proved that their entertaining style and title success aren’t mutually exclusive as they kept a predominantly pro-Ipswich crowd happy very happy with a first title.

It seemed that Mother Nature was intent on keeping crowd numbers low, with an almighty downpour and storm during the FOGS Colts Challenge match around two hours before the big game’s kick off. But it was just a test of the resolve of the Intrust Super Cup fans as the sun came out just in time for the main game. Although the field was still quite wet. A question was whether the conditions would blunt the attacking juggernaut that is Ipswich, and play into the hands of the more conventional Blackhawks was about to be answered.

After the presentation of the 20 year Anniversary team, a piece of Rupert McCall wizardry and a rendition of the national anthem in which the introduction of the band went on longer than the actual audible sections of the song after microphone issues, the final was underway with a standard long kick off from Townsville.

It wasn’t long after that the first points of the game were scored to the Townsville Blackhawks, who took advantage of an Ipswich error in the first set to score in the second minute through Tom Humble on the right after Mosese Pangai almost broke through down the left from the scrum three plays earlier. It didn’t look like Ipswich’s day as they put one of their famous short kick offs out on the full. Neville Costigan almost made them pay a double price from the penalty but was held up.

The next section of the game was punctuated by some errors from both sides and some powerful running from the Townsville side, but somehow the final play went missing. They were made to pay for that waste in the 18th minute as the Jets showed some of their potential with a typical sideways run leading to the perfect pass to Marmin Barba who sped down the left and whilst he couldn’t quite get to the try line an overhead pass to Dane Phillips sealed the Jets first try and took the lead 6-4.

The Jets fans didn’t to have wait long for another as a great Ipswich kick chase put pressure on the Townsville fullback who did well to keep the ball in the field of play only to be almost dragged over the sideline by the Jets defence, and in his desperation not to go into touch with the ball Hughes threw the ball back into play into the waiting arms of Marmin Barba. After a successful sideline conversion the Jets led 12-4 after 21 minutes.

After another period of errors and penalties which could easily have been a combination of Grand Final nerves and a still saturated playing surface, Townsville took advantage of an Ipswich error 10 metres out from their line to score in the left corner through try scoring machine Zac Santo after a well worked backline movement from the scrum. After the conversion hit the post the Blackhawks still trailed by four points with just over 10 minutes to go in the first half.

Ipswich unveiled their grubber kick off from the Townsville try and for the second time of the day it didn’t end in Ipswich possession. Some more bad luck for the Jets was coming as they lost two of their key forwards in the minutes leading to half time, leaving their bench down to 15 for the rest of the game. The Jets could have been excused for shelving their famous lateral movement, especially close to their line, but being 10 metres out didn’t stop them throwing the ball around and even when they did the Townsville side weren’t able to take advantage before half time.

Just a few minutes before half time the Blackhawks were unlucky not to get a penalty from a swinging arm, instead the dropped ball handed Ipswich an opportunity they welcomed gladly as the Jets scored just seconds before the break when Carlin Anderson run through the Townsville defence almost untouched to score on the left. A missed conversion from the try scorer left the half time score at 16-8.

The first kick off of the second half led to the first successful short kick off from Ipswich from also led to another four points as retiring Jets captain Keiron Lander was on the spot after a perfect in goal grubber kick from Dane Phillips. Ipswich doubled up just a few minutes later when they benefited from a penalty for a shoulder charge by Townsville, and the Valekapa try down the left extended the lead to 24-8 after 44 minutes, and Ipswich looked to have one hand on the Intrust Super Cup.

After a run of penalties to the Blackhawks and a lot of possession and territory helped by Ipswich errors, Townsville pegged the Jets back with a try to Townsville fullback Jahrome Hughes after an incisive run after a standard backline movement. The crucial conversion was made from Robert Lui and with the margin reduced to 10 points the momentum was singing towards the Blackhawks with 30 minutes to play. Ipswich started to look very tired and with the reduced interchange numbers the Blackhawks looked primed to take advantage.

However as anything can happen in a Jets game and usually does, Marmin Barba diffused a difficult bomb and then went on a 60m run down the left touchline, and the perfectly placed in field kick could well have been Ipswich’s sixth try but the bounce of the ball and both Ipswich chasers being tackled off the ball didn’t allow that to happen. The Jets had to settle for two from the ensuing penalty. The almost-try gave the Jets the spark they needed and left a smile on the faces of most of the fans at Suncorp, appreciating Barba’s work. At 26-14 with 20 minutes to play there was still plenty of time for both sides.

Errors continue to plague the game as the pressure of a first title was on the line, and both sides were guilty of them. Townsville had the best of the play of the next 10 minutes and although the video referee denied them a try that seemed to surprise everyone on the field after a kick from dummy half 1 metre out was ruled out. No surprise though in the 73rd minute as the Blackhawks’ pressure led to a try to Robert Lui after a great chip and chase, and he converted his own try to set up a thrilling finish with just 6 points covering the teams with seven minutes to go.

Showing the pressure of having just a six point lead, Ipswich kicked their first conventional long kick off of the afternoon as the first of a few chants of Ipswich echoed through Suncorp stadium, their fans trying to do everything to keep the players up for the last few minutes with a noise that belied the relatively small crowd. Townsville tried their hardest in the last few minutes to break down the Jets, but they didn’t have quite enough to break the Jets down, who added salt to the wounds in the dying seconds with a try to hooker Matt Parcell to seal their first title. Retiring Ipswich Keiron Lander got the ceremonial conversion after the siren to extend the final score to 32-20.

Despite the errors, understandable in the conditions, it was still a great spectacle and good example of what the Intrust Super Cup has to offer. Whilst Ipswich celebrate their first title, there is a sense of inevitability that Townsville will also claim a title in the not too distant future.

For all Ipswich’s flair and attack, the best two players on the ground were the hard working forwards of Rod Griffin and Billy McConachie, with the latter just pipping his team mate to the Duncan Hall medal for the best player on the ground. Their almost unrecognisable jerseys covered in the mud was evidence of their hard work with the Jets’ reduced bench.

Ipswich will now take on the Newcastle Knights in the second State Championship on NRL Grand Final day, and based on their finals performances will be tough to beat next Sunday. It will also give the entire rugby league community a sample of their attacking, devil may care style that will hopefully catch on through the code and bring a fresh wave of attacking rugby league to the fans.

 

IPSWICH JETS 32 (Carlin Anderson, Marmin Barba, Nemani Valekapa, Dane Phillips, Matt Parcell, Keiron Lander tries; Carlin Anderson 2, Marmin Barba, Keiron Lander goals) def TOWNSVILLE BLACKHAWKS 20 (Jahrome Hughes, Zac Santo, Tom Humble, Robert Lui tries; Robert Lui 2 goals) at Suncorp Stadium

Final Teams

Townsville Blackhawks: 1. Jahrome Hughes 2. Zac Santo 3. Tom Humble 4. Mosese Pangai 5. Samsen O’Neill 6. Robert Lui 7. Michael Parker-Walshe 8. Glenn Hall 9. Anthony Mitchell 10. Daniel Beasley (c) 11. Rhyse Martin 12. Kelepi Tanginoa 13. Neville Costigan 15. Lorenzo Ma’afu 16. Chris McLean 18. Rhys Matsen 19. Ricky Thorby 

Ipswich Jets: 1. Carlin Anderson 2. Marmin Barba 3. Liam Capewell 4. Nemani Valekapa 5. Richard Pandia 6. Josh Cleeland 7. Dane Phillips 8. Josh Seage 9. Matt Parcell 10. Rod Griffin 11. Sam Martin 12. Kurt Capewell 13. Keiron Lander (c) 14. Landon Hayes 15. Kurtis Lingwoodock 16. Billy McConnachie 22. Fakahoko Teutau

Reflecting on the Grand Final:

Always great to see both teams running on the field at the same, works in world football, and have never seen the need to have the standard booing session for the visitors.

Took about 60 minutes before you realised there was only one referee on the park, and whilst there’s an argument that the NRL is a much faster pace and needs two, the on field results and some of the howlers prove twice as many doesn’t mean better.

The QRL should do everything within their power to ensure every Grand Final is played at Suncorp, as the atmosphere was great, and hopefully they can attract more than 8,000 next season.

Channel 9’s commentary and coverage of the season has been excellent, and the quality of the call team gives hope that there is a bright future ahead for league broadcasts on free to air. They could do worse than have the entire call team from yesterday Psaltis and Sattler included) calling NRL in the future, it may be low on big names, but is high in quality and their knowledge of the game and passion is tremendous. At a minimum we can only hope that Mat Thompson replaces Ray Hadley as Nine’s alternative caller.