Burleigh Bears are the 2016 intrust Super Cup premiers after seeing off the Redcliffe Dolphins 26-16 on a perfect Sunday afternoon at Suncorp Stadium.
The pre-game was all about late inclusions as Jonus Pearson and leading point scorer Darren Nicholls were a fillip for the Dolphins.
The Bears themselves had a late ace up their sleeve with Jamie Dowling added to the 17.
If the very first hit up of the game was any sign it was going to be rugged affair, it certainly was for the first few passages of the game which became a real arm wrestle.
It had to be said that if any side looked to open up the scoring it would probably be the Bears.
In the second minute that was exactly what happened as fullback Kurtis Rowe showed some dazzling footwork to skip through the Dolphins defence for the first try of the afternoon. The conversion from wide out made it 6-0.
Burleigh then provided a golden opportunity for the Dolphins to hit back as they dropped the ball on the third tackle, then gave away a penalty in the resulting Dolphins attacking set.
A few tackles later Redcliffe had scored after a great offload and quick hands landed on the chest of Jonus Pearson who scored on the right. The missed conversion left the score 6-4 after 15 minutes.
Just when the side from the Peninsula looked like they might kick on after a promising attacking raid they gave away a crucial penalty in the middle of the park just within striking distance and were punished in full not long after.
Kurtis Rowe grabbed himself a double after more fancy footwork and great lead up play from Cameron Cullen. Another conversion made it 12-4.
It looked like the Bears might tear the Dolphins apart like the game two weeks prior as they nearly crossed just a few minutes later after a break from Cameron Cullen was almost finished by Jamal Fogarty.
After sustained pressure from Burleigh, the Dolphins would have been relieved when the Bears took two points from a penalty close to the line. It was all Burleigh at this stage.
Redcliffe gained some momentum back after Burleigh failed to catch a spiraling bomb and a wicked bounce saw the Bears give away a drop out.
Despite a huge 60m drop out kick on the full, the Dolphins attacked the line and were rewarded in the 32nd minute. A clever grubber from dummy half just metres from the line by Redcliffe hooker Shane Pumipi was pounced on by Tyson Cleal. The successful conversion made it a 14-10 score line.
The Dolphins gained the ascendancy at this point but the Bears resisted a number of attacking raids. They handed Redcliffe wonderful field position just before half time with an error but failed to capitalise and the score remained 14-10 at the break.
Would the four point gap be enough given Redcliffe’s dynamic second halves in the last part of the season and finals?
As it turned out it would be more than enough but not after Redcliffe gave Burleigh a scare and threatened to take the title themselves.
Redcliffe were slightly better in the initial exchanges after the break but after failing to capitalise on the advantage they were punished when Bears scored in the left corner through Sami Sauiluma.
A sensational sideline conversion made it 20-10, leaving Redcliffe with plenty to do.
Redcliffe almost got caught again a few minutes later as their fullback failed to field a kick which rebounded off his knees and thankfully resulted in a Bears knock on.
Not long after they benefited again from a Bears knock on in which they took full advantage. Darren Nicholls showed his class as he skipped through the tiring Bears defence to score near the posts and a grandstand finish was on offer with the score 20-16 with twenty minutes remaining.
It was at this stage that Redcliffe started to take over the contest as the Bears appeared tired.
You got the feeling that with their poor last play options and the fact they didn’t advantage of field position would result in the Bears making a big move at the other end.
It was exactly what happened when Cullen got hold of some second phase ball and broke through the Redcliffe line to score what appeared to be the match winner in the 70th minute.
It was no less than the Duncan Hall Medal winner for best on ground deserved.
Cullen has been given a lifeline in the National Rugby League with Manly Sea Eagles after the Gold Coast Titans needed to clear salary cap money for their late season signing in Jarryd Hayne.
The kick made it 26-16 with under 10 to go, but given Redcliffe’s second halves, a comeback couldn’t be ruled out.
Redcliffe tried hard in those last minutes and were gifted some opportunities with errors from the Bears but it was all too late. A disappointing end to a great year for the Dolphins coached by former Origin player Adam Mogg, but in comparison to previous seasons it was a welcome return to the top.
Burleigh were ecstatic at the final whistle as it was a long time between drinks for them. You can’t argue against their win either. They were one of the best teams all year and beat the Minor Premiers Dolphins twice in the finals series.
The celebrations won’t last long as they need to uphold Queensland pride in the Intrust Super State Championship game on NRL Grand Final day on Sunday when they meet Intrust Super Premiership winners Illawarra Cutters. It’s a game Queensland based sides have yet to lose in two attempts.