On an emotionally charged night at the Sunshine Coast Stadium the Falcons made a statement that will be heard around the league as they dispatched the Easts Tigers 26-6.
The Falcons showed they are no pretenders, that they have the ability, desire and most importantly, the attitude to play finals football in 2016. While coach Scott Sipple and his Tigers brains trust must be scratching their heads to work out where they go from here.
A scrappy opening forty was punctuated by errors and penalties, as emotions boiled over repeatedly. The Tigers lost inspirational captain Dane Hogan in the 11th minute when a seemingly innocuous tackle on Mark Nicholls left him groggy from a head knock and he took no further part in the game.
Ryley Jacks opened the scoring in the 15th minute when he shrugged off an attempted tackle, stepped round Matt White and finished a powerful 25m burst beside the posts. Sam Young converted for a 6-0 lead that the Falcons would never relinquish.
Tom Butterfield responded for the Tigers in the 36th minute when he look a run around pass off Matt Pitman and dashed 15m to score under the posts. Brentt Warr converted to take the score to 6-6 at the break. However this was to be the only time the Tigers would trouble the scorer.
A 6-6 score line at half time must have felt like a win to the Tigers given the amount of possession the Falcons had had, especially in their attacking 20m zone, where the Tigers spent a lot of time defending. All of that defensive work caught up with them in the second half though as the Falcons ran over them in the last twenty minutes scoring 16 unanswered points.
The Falcons scored four second half tries, to Tony Tumusa (45th minute), Paul Ivan (60th and 79th minutes) and Callum Klein in the 60th minute in a completely dominant half of football that should be very pleasing to all involved.
Their best were halfback Ryley Jacks whose kicking in play and option taking were superb, Tui Kamikamica and Nafe Seluini who both made big yards with ball in hand. Kamikamica when he was charging up the middle and Seluini when he darted from dummy half and looked to link with a support runner. The two worked well in concert with a nice right side set play that repeatedly beat the Tigers defence.
For the Tigers this was déjà vu all over again as the ghosts from their Burleigh Bears nightmare two weeks ago came calling again. Matt White was, as he always is, a stand out however he lacked support from the rest of his forwards. They all tried however as a group they lacked the spark they needed to get over the Falcons pack. Too often Jake Foster was forced into taking hit ups one off the ruck, rather than running wide and linking with his centre, where he is at his best.
Other than Matt White the Tigers best where the back three of Javarn White, Dane Chang and Leon Ellia-Niukre who all tried hard all day and constantly asked questions of the very good Falcons defence.
The two major concerns for the Tigers must be kicking in general play, which consistently went to Eddie Tautali and Tony Taumusa and rarely found the grass, and set management. At least three times in the second half they had no clear plan on what was to happen on the last tackle; Matt White and Matt Pitman were both forced into taking kicks because no one else was available and on one occasion Guy Hamilton was caught running on the last.
The Tigers have seven days to work out how to change things before they welcome the Northern Pride to Suzuki Stadium while the Falcons face what promises to be an intriguing away trip to Townsville.
Sunshine Coast Falsons 26 (Paul Ivan 2, Ryley Jacks, Tony Tumusa, Callum Klein tries. Sam Young 2, Ryan Hansen goals) def Easts Tigers 6 (Tom Butterfield try. Brentt Warr goal).