The Intrust Super Cup Round 23 saw all top 6 sides in action of the 5 games on offer, and three of those teams laid down a significant marker on their premiership aspirations.
The teams that now form the top three were those teams after Redcliffe and Easts had strong wins, and the PNG Hunters somehow held off a Blackhawks onslaught for at least 15 minutes in Townsville to win and keep the lead of the competition for another week.
Sunshine Coast defied their LWLWLWLW form with a surprise loss at home to the Norths Devils to drop down the top 6 pecking order.
And Burleigh won the game of the two in form sides that couldn’t make the finals.
A brief rundown of all the games is below or catch the full scores via our Intrust Super Cup Match Centre.
BURLEIGH BEARS 28 MACKAY CUTTERS 16
Burleigh Bears made it seven wins from nine as they continue to end their 2017 season in style with a win over the Mackay Cutters who were travelling almost as well heading into the weekend.
They went behind early to the first of Braden Uele’s first half double in the 9th minute, but responded through an unlikely source in PNG International prop Luke Page 5 minutes later. The lead changed a few more time in the first half, as Mackay scored again, then the Bears crossed twice more before half time to take a 16-12 lead into the break.
In a see sawing game the Cutters hit back jut after half time to draw level at 16-16, but the Bears had the final say with a try to Connor Broadhurst in the 53rd minute to boost his tally to 12 points for the afternoon, and Sami Sauiluma got the second of his two tries for the afternoon in the 64th minute to round out the scoring.
The 28-16 win made no difference to the Bears as they remain 10th, but closed in on 7th place, and are still a chance to nab the best of the rest tag for 7th. On current form, they have every chance.
TOWNSVILLE BLACKHAWKS 16 PNG HUNTERS 24
The answer about whether the PNG Hunters are a genuine Premiership winning chance in 2017 was answered with an emphatic yes in Townsville on Saturday afternoon, as the Hunters overcame a second half onslaught from the Blackhawks to run out 24-16 winners and be one step closer to the minor premiership.
It all started well for the Hunters who were dominant in the first part of the match, and their two tries in the first ten minutes to Stargroth Amean and Watson Boas, probably did not underline their hold on the game. Townsville got back into the game, and eventually on top, starting with a try to Carlin Anderson, and then two more at regular intervals. By half time, the Hunters looked to be glad it was over.
But the real tough test was to begin after half time. Townsville picked up where they left off, and were dominating the game, but without scoring. The Blackhawks had the vast majority of the ball and field position, and it felt like they were on the Hunters line for a solid five minutes, and either an error or another Hunters penalty gave the PNG some relief. It was 58 minutes gone before the Hunters finally had appeared to have withstood the storm.
As so often happens in rugby league where a team dominates but doesn’t make it count on the scoreboard, Townsville failed to score and the Hunters eventually crossed through a cheeky try to Israel Eliab. Having received a penalty the PNG centre tapped and ran from 10 metres out instead of the standard pass from the tap. It caught the Blackhawks by surprise, but Eliab still had to drag three of them to the line.
Another try to the occasional maligned centre gave him a double and a penalty goal gave the Hunters the win and a guaranteed home finals at minimum.
SUNSHINE COAST FALCONS 10 NORTHS DEVILS 18
Two late tries to the Norths Devils saw them defy a lowly ladder position and horror run of one win in 11 games to upset the high flying Sunshine Coast Falcons on the coast.
In a low scoring games of 5 tries in total, the Devils scored in the 70th and 78th minute to snatch the lead for the first time after the Falcons had opened up the scoring in only the 20th minute through Alex Bishop. Norths scored the only other points in the first half with a converted try in the 33rd minute to former NZ Warrior John Palavi.
The Falcons were first to score again in the second half when winger Alexander Copelin crossed in the 61st minute, but that 10-6 lead wasn’t to last when the Devils came home strongly.
The Falcons drop to fourth now with the loss, but shouldn’t drop lower than that with their for and against. Norths have now ensured they can’t finish last.
REDCLIFFE DOLPHINS 30 TWEED HEADS SEAGULLS 4
The last time Redcliffe Dolphins met the Tweed Heads Seagulls they were leading the competition and were humbled by the then last placed Tweed Heads Seagulls.
Unfortunately for the Seagulls their ladder position hasn’t changed, but the result did this time as the Dolphins were clinical in the end and kept themselves in the hunt for claiming that top spot back before the end of the regular season.
A low scoring first half saw just the one try and a 6-0 lead to the home side. The Dolphins opened up in the second with four more tries to one from the Seagulls, the first just four minutes after the break to the always feisty Curtis Johnston. Troy Giess continued his recent try scoring with another 7 minutes later, and when Josh Beehag crossed in the 61st minute.
Tweed Heads finally crossed in the 70th minute, but it was all too late, and Redcliffe added one more try through prop Matt Lodge with 6 minutes to go.
Redcliffe are still just three points behind the PNG Hunters in second place, and have a guaranteed two points coming for a bye. They have given themselves every chance of finishing first, but are guaranteed of at least a home final at this stage. A second place and trip to Port Moresby for the finals may not be much of a reward though.
Tweed Heads will need to win one more game than Central Capras in the last two weeks to avoid finishing the season in last place.
SOUTHS LOGAN MAGPIES 10 EASTS TIGERS 46
The Easts Tigers and Souths Logan Magpies came into Round 23 of the Intrust Super Cup separated by just one point, but finished worlds apart as the Easts Tigers demolished the Magpies and saw off their top two hopes whilst dramatically increasing their own.
Easts took full advantage of the Falcons’ loss too, as they now sit in third place with the Dolphins only a point away in second.
It looked like it could be a very one sided game early as the Tigers held the upper hand and scored two tries in the first nine minutes, but the Magpies scored their first in the 20th with what felt like their first extended period in their opposition’s 20m area for the game and it 12-4.
That was as close as it got for Souths Logan as the Tigers ran away with the game. They ended the half with two long range efforts from Brodie Croft and Young Tonumaipe’a and led 22-4 at the break.
The second half saw four tries to one again for the Tigers, and the 3 try burst in nine minutes starting just after half time was the end of the contest for the match as the Tigers had a 40-6 lead. There was enough time left for Souths Logan to get another try and Brodie Croft to complete his double, but the contest had been finished a long time before.
Easts are shaping nicely for the finals now, and will be a real dark horse for the title, Souths Logan will need to regroup and face the prospect of knockout finals football.