The Sunshine Coast Falcons and Easts Tigers had played twice in 2017 and been separated by a total of 1 point across both games. Sundays epic finals encounter was not quite as close, with the Falcons running out 26-22 winners, courtesy of a hat trick from XXXX Man of the Match Jye Ballinger, however it was a tense and tight encounter from whistle to whistle.
The teams went try for try in the opening exchanges; with Ballinger scoring the first try of the afternoon when he was the recipient of an audacious ‘no look’ pass from the equally impressive Jahrome Hughes.
It was two of the Tigers veteran bookends scoring for them in the first half half; Mathew Pitman scored one of the more unusual tries seen in the Intrust Super Cup in recent years when he took the ball from Tom Butterfield, who was held up over the line, and dotted down to score. The ever-dangerous Butterfield was also the provider for Matt Zgrajewski. He ran to the line and drew two defenders before slipping the ball to Zgrajewski on his left who deployed a copy book hit and spin to get over the line.
Billy Walters converted both tries and added a penalty goal to see the Tigers lead 14-6 at the break.
It was the Tigers who had the better of the first half and out enthused their opposition, however over exuberance cost them. In contrast, the Falcons created fewer opportunities but iced the one they did created.
Ballinger was at it again in when he scattered the defence and powered 40m to score under the posts and again, when a bouncing Ryley Jacks grubber found its way to him and he strolled the 10m to score.
There were some fantastic tries scored in the second half of this free-flowing affair. Jarrod McInally flew high for the Tigers in the 58th minute and reeled in a Billy Walters bomb to score. The Tigers last try of the day was the best, Butterfield scooted from dummy half and passed to Walters. Walters batted the ball straight on to Linc Port who passed to Brayden Torpy who in turn found Robbie Rochow who broke the line and burst 30m to score.
The Falcons scored two other second half tries, the first when an alert Guy Hamilton spotted the Tigers defence napping on the short side and shot down it, pulling in the defence and giving Chris Lewis just enough room to barge over. Their last try of the day saw Scott Drinkwater go 25m to score after scintillating lead up work from Matthew Soper-Lawler and Jeremy Hawkins.
The Falcons defence was phenomenal, The Tigers spent the last few minutes of the game camped on the Falcons line desperately pushing for the win however the Falcons stopped everything the Tigers threw at them.
The Tigers will rue crucial mistakes in key moments, in what was always going to be a close encounter they simply allowed the Falcons too many chances and the Falcons are far too good of a side not to convert.
Falcons coach Craig Ingebrigsten said that was the sort of game where there should not have been a winner, “I’m just so relieved, they (The Falcons) are such a great bunch of blokes and work so hard for each other.”
The Falcons best were Ballingers, Ryley Jacks, Jahrome Hughes, while for the Tigers Butterfield, Rochow and Zgrajewski gave their all.
Next week’s promises an absolutely spine tingling affair, there is no love lost between the Falcons and the Dolphins and it seems fitting that they should meet for a place in the Grand Final.