Another successful Country Week in the Intrust Super Cup has passed, and at the end of Round 23 there have been 7 sets of satisfied fans, and a slightly clearer finals picture.
The top 2 teams are now decided, with just the minor premiership to be sorted between Townsville Blackhawks and PNG Hunters with two rounds of the regular season to go. Townsville have the upper hand with their enormous for and against.
With both third placed Wynnum and fourth placed Ipswich losing, it opens up for the Easts Tigers to sneak home and grab a home final in the first week of the finals. The last place in the finals is still mathematically up for grabs after Redcliffe beat the sixth placed Northern Pride, with both the Dolphins and Cutters needing wins and other results to go their way.
There were other games in the Country Week not involving the top half of the ladder too, and a brief description of the weekend is below.
But first, the ladder.
- TOWNSVILLE 39 points (F/A +476) 2. PNG HUNTERS 39 (+211), 3. WYNNUM 32 (+176), 4. IPSWICH 32 (+158), EASTS 30 (+201), 6. NORTHERN PRIDE 28 (+32), 7. REDCLIFFE 25 (+131), 8. MACKAY 24 (+64), 9. BURLEIGH 22 (-253), 10. TWEED HEADS 21 (-71), 11. SUNSHINE COAST 19 (-139), 12. NORTHS 16 (-290), 13. SOUTHS LOGAN 15 (-182), 14. CENTRAL 6 (-514).
TOWNSVILLE BLACKHAWKS 36 def IPSWICH JETS 28 @ Charters Towers (H/T 10-24)
The weekend’s first clash set the tone for a fantastic Country Week as the competition’s front running Blackhawks were given quite a workout before they eventually got over the top of the fourth placed Ipswich.
A loss for Townsville and a win for PNG would have seen the Blackhawks replaced the top, and the first half of that scenario looked a real possibility as the Jets dominated the first 20 minutes with three tries to take an 18-0 lead after just 19 minutes. But Townsville aren’t top without reason and they hit back with two quick tries to trail 18-10, before the Jets stamped their first half authority with another try before the break.
The second 40 minutes though was all about Townsville side as they scored all the tries, 5 in total, of the second half. This includes a spell of 3 tries in 15 minutes from the 59th minute which saw them draw level and overtake the Jets, who had just the two penalty goals to show for the second half.
The Blackhawks now just need to match the PNG Hunters results to win the minor premiership at their first attempt and travel to the Sunshine Coast next weekend to do just that. Ipswich meanwhile have now played all of the other Top 6 sides since Round 16, and their record is 1 win and 4 losses. A trip to Tweed heads may look an easier fixture.
TWEED HEADS SEAGULLS 20 def CENTRAL CAPRAS 16 @ Bundaberg (H/T 8-6)
Once again the Central Capras will wonder what might have been as their long search for a second win continues despite giving the Tweed Heads Seagulls a hard time in Bundaberg. Not for the first time this year the Capras scored first, and held a lead at some stage of the game, including as late as the 72nd minute as they clung onto a 16-14 lead.
They were also first to score in the second half, and with a second try after the break took a lead of 16-8 over the Seagulls. But once again the Capras weren’t able to turn that into a victory, as the Seagulls scored in the 73rd to seal a hard fought 20-16 win.
The Capras get another chance at home next weekend against second last placed Souths Logan Magpies to register a second win. Tweed Heads meanwhile welcome the Ipswich Jets.
NORTHS DEVILS 40 def MACKAY CUTTERS 28 @ Dalby (H/T 28-6)
The Norths Devils provided the biggest surprise win of the Country Week round by putting a large dent in the finals hope of the Mackay Cutters with a 40-28 win in Dalby.
A dominant first half from the Devils in which they outscored the Cutters five tries to one, set the game up for a second consecutive win either side of a bye for a Norths side who went winless for months. Norths extended their 28-6 half time lead by posting the second half’s first try, but Mackay weren’t quite ready to throw in the towel with their season on the line.
The Cutters scored four tries in 20 minutes from the 54th minute, and got as close as 38-28 with a few minutes to go, but some well timed penalty goals edged the Devils up the ladder to leapfrog Souths Logan, and edge Mackay further from a potential finals spot.
Mackay can still make the Top 6, but firstly need to beat the red-hot PNG Hunters at home next weekend. Norths can have another say in the Top 6 when they welcome the sixth placed Northern Pride at Bishop Park.
EASTS TIGERS 20 def SOUTHS LOGAN 18 @ Blackall (H/T 6-16)
The Tigers and the Magpies met in Country Week’s most far flung destination in Blackall, and the locals were treated to a close contest in which the now second last Souths Logan Magpies almost caused a boilover against the fifth placed Easts Tigers.
The upset looked on the cards at half time as the Magpies led 16-6 after two converted tries and two penalty goals countered the opening try from the Tigers. A third consecutive penalty to the Magpies gave them 12 points breathing space, but it wasn’t enough to beat Easts as the Tigers showed their finals form by scoring the only three tries of the second half to sneak home 20-18 after their final try in the 73rd minute.
Easts can now aim for third or fourth as they are just two points behind Wynnum and Ipswich, and have a superior for and against currently. This would give them a home final in week one of the finals, and given their home form (just one loss and a draw the only blemishes) will be tough to beat. A win at Redcliffe will help that cause, but the Dolphins need to win to keep their top 6 hopes alive. No wonder the TV camera will be there next week. Souths Logan have now dropped to second last and travel to Rockhampton to play the Capras.
BURLEIGH BEARS 16 def SUNSHINE COAST FALCONS 14 @ Stanthorpe (H/T 0-10)
The last time Stanthorpe had so many visitors to the area it was those chasing snow, this week it was two Intrust Super Cup teams who were looking for two points. And it was the side from the Gold Coast – Burleigh Bears – who came from behind to beat a Sunshine Coast side that has been in good form in recent weeks and take those two points.
Both sides are out of finals contention, but a win was still important to both sides. Sunshine Coast were looking for a hat trick of wins, some feat given they won just once last year. Burleigh meanwhile have had some big losses in the second half of the season, and a win would erase some of the bad memories.
It looked like the Sunshine Coast would be the winning side as they dominated the first half with the only two tries and led 10-0 at the break. But Burleigh proved they are still very competitive on their day and the three tries to one second half allowed them sneak home over the Falcons 18-16. A lost opportunity for the Falcons who could have gone as high as 9th with a win.
The Sunshine Coast have the Blackhawks visiting next week, whilst Burleigh get the weekend off as a reward.
REDCLIFFE DOLPHINS 34 def NORTHERN PRIDE 26 @ Innisfail (H/T 10-16)
Redcliffe kept their finals hopes alive with a victory over the team they hope to overtake in Innisfail on Sunday.
They did it the hard way after trailing against the Pride after the first two tries of the game went to the Cairns based side. Those ten points were matched by the Dolphins soon after, but they provided a chance to the Pride on a platter when they dropped the ball from the kick off. It was a chance the Pride accepted happily and took the six points and a half time lead.
The second half was see-sawing affair which saw the Dolphins hit back first, followed by the Pride scoring again to grasp the lead back for the third time of the afternoon. It was the last time they were in front as Redcliffe scored the next two tries to hit the front for the first time at 28-22. A reply from the Pride went unconverted, and Redcliffe made sure of the win with a final try and an important 34-26 win.
It’s still a slim chance but Redcliffe must keep winning to remain in the finals hunt, a visit from Easts will test those finals credentials next weekend. The Pride play Norths in Bamaga near Cape York next weekend and a win will ensure they finish sixth.
PNG HUNTERS 36 def WYNNUM MANLY 13 @ Port Moresby (H/T 6-13)
Rugby League’s only sell out crowd of the weekend in the southern hemisphere occurred in the Intrust Super Cup in Port Moresby on Sunday as a crowd of over 15,000 saw the PNG Hunters confirm their place in the top 2 for 2015 with a huge second half performance over the third placed Wynnum Seagulls. The crowd was only beaten by the Cowboys and Broncos.
Not many rugby league games this weekend had long lines outside the ground an hour before kickoff, and it seemed that many of those fans would be disappointed as Wynnum proved their quality and their pedigree for big time football and outscored the Hunters two tries to one in the first half. Given the tightness of the game a Seamark field goal to the Seagulls looked a shrewd move just before the break, and the 13-6 advantage looked a decisive one given the tight first half.
The Hunters though stepped up a gear in the second half, and the Port Moresby crowd were whipped into a frenzy as the Hunter kept the Wynnum side pointless in the second half whilst laying on five tries to win 36-13 and secure a top two position for the upcoming finals. Fan favourite Willie Minoga was amongst the try scorers, keeping everyone happy.
The race is on now for top spot for the Hunters and they are equal on points with Townsville but for and against means they need to win one more game than Townsville. They head to Mackay in search of their next win. Wynnum get a bye to rest after the big game.
TOWNSVILLE BLACKHAWKS 36 (Kyle Feldt 2, Jahrome Hughes, Robert Lui, Michael Parker-Walshe, Kelepi Tanginoa, Lorenzo Ma’afu tries; Kyle Feldt 2, Robert Lui 2 goals) def IPSWICH JETS 28 (Marmin Barba 2, Dane Phillips, Billy McConnachie tries; Carlin Anderson 6 goals) at Bill Lewis Oval, Charters Towers.
TWEED HEADS SEAGULLS 20 (Ali Grant 2, Nathanael Barnes, Blake Anderson tries; Jamal Fogarty 2 goals) def CENTRAL CAPRAS 16 (Jake Ainsworth, Marco Delapena, Dan Randall tries; Matt Minto, Ian Webster goals)
NORTHS DEVILS 40 (Rogan Dean 2, Dylan Smith 2, Michael Lucas, Joel Bailey, Dan Murphy tries; Liam Tyson 6 goals) def MACKAY CUTTERS 28 (Sam Clune 2, Buchanan Rawhiti, Aleki Falepaini, Tyson Martin tries; Liam Taylor 4 goals)
EASTS TIGERS 20 (Shane Neumann, Brandon Downey, Brentt Warr, Dwayne Craft tries; Shaun Nona 2 goals) def SOUTHS LOGAN MAGPIES 18 (Scott Doyle, Jack Joass tries; Scott Doyle 5 goals) at Blackall Showgrounds.
BURLEIGH BEARS 18 (Chad Redman, Hayden Schwass, Ayden Lee tries; Kevin Gordon 3 goals) def SUNSHINE COAST FALCONS 16 (Rowan Klein, David Oakes, Billy Brittain tries; David Oakes, Ryan Hansen goals) at Sullivan Oval, Stanthorpe.
REDCLIFFE DOLPHINS 34 (Josh Beehag 2, Curtis Johnston 2, John Brady, Jon Green tries; Luke Capewell 5 goals) def NORTHERN PRIDE 26 (Sam Obst 3, Linc Port, Jordan Biondi-Odo tries; Jordon Biondi-Odo 2, Linc Port goals) at Callendar Park, Innisfail.
PNG HUNTERS 36 (Kato Ottio 2, Stargroth Amean, Israel Eliab, Adam Korave, Willie Minoga tries; Ase Boas 6 goals) def WYNNUM MNALY SEAGULLS 13 (Brendon Gibb, Stephen Coombe tries; Mathew Seamark 2 goals, Mathew Seamark field goal)