As the NRL heads into finals mode one could be forgiven about forgetting about the Intrust Super Cup finals, but do so at your peril as the second round of the finals has thrown up two classic matches on paper. Neither likely to disappoint.
Saturday sees first and second from the 2015 season vying for a direct path to the Grand Final at Suncorp Stadium on September 27, and if the season’s clashes between Townsville and PNG are any guide it will be a thrilling, tight encounter.
On Sunday it is elimination time as 3rd placed Ipswich and 5th placed Easts battle to stay in the finals series at North Ipswich Reserve. Like Saturday’s game, this should be a tight, exciting game if the previous clashes are anything to go by. The added threat of the season ending adding even more tension.
There is genuine excitement about both of these clashes as the previous clash of Townsville and PNG in Townsville, and Easts v Ipswich at Tapout Energy Stadium are amongst the top five games of rugby league of any grade I have seen this year. Another serving of the same will be most welcome, and the discerning rugby league fans should do all they can to catch up with both this weekend.
TOWNSVILLE BLACKHAWKS v PNG HUNTERS @ Jack Manski Oval
SATURDAY 5pm – Live Stream should be available via QRL Website
This will be one game not to miss this weekend. The top two sides of the 2015 regular season meet in Townsville to fight for a direct entry into the Grand Final at Suncorp Stadium.
Townsville have been mighty in their first season, beating some of the established Queensland Cup teams with a ruthlessness that saw them top the table with a for and against difference of over 500 points. But for all the big wins and 2015 triumphs there was one thing they couldn’t do – beat the PNG Hunters.
Not that there was much in it with both games being very close, but in both games the Hunters got a big enough lead for them to hang on desperately, a sign of their improvement to the side that just missed the finals last year.
One thing in the Blackhawks favour is the NRL experience in their side, two with winning NRL Grand Final experience in Neville Costigan and Glen Hall. That could be the key against a Hunters side with plenty of skill and excitement, but lacking in big game experience. Although given their three sellouts of 15,000 excitable fans in Port Moresby one could argue the other way for PNG.
The great thing is that both squads appear to be at full strength, and that means there is plenty to get excited about on Saturday afternoon. Both sides offer plenty for the fans, the Blackhawks are exciting and have that NRL polish to their game, and the Hunters play their unique style of football which has excited so many fans this year.
There should be a live stream, but stayed tuned to the QRL Website and Nothing But League for confirmation.
Prediction: PNG by 2
Townsville 16 PNG 22
PNG 28 Townsville 26
Townsville: $1.45 PNG $2.75
Line: Townsville -6.5 PNG +6.5 – both $1.90
Townsville Blackhawks: 1. Jahrome Hughes 2. Zac Santo 3. Tom Humble 4. Mosese Pangai 5. Samsen O’Neill 6. Robert Lui 7. Michael Parker-Walshe 8. Ricky Thorby 9. Anthony Mitchell 10. Daniel Beasley (c) 11. Glenn Hall 12. Kelepi Tanginoa 13. Neville Costigan 15. Lorenzo Ma’afu 16. Chris McLean 17. Rhyse Martin 18. Rhys Matsen 19. Corey Jensen
Coach: Kristian Woolf
PNG Hunters: 1. Stargroth Amean 2. Oti Bland Tony 3. Noel Zeming 4. Thompson Teteh 5. Adex Wera 6. Israel Eliab (c) 7. Ase Boas 8. Henry Noki 9. Wartovo Puara 10. Esau Siune 11. Adam Korave 12. Kato Ottio 13. Timothy Lomai 14. Brandy Peter 15. Atte Bina 16. Willie Minoga 17. Warren Glare 18. Nickson Borana 19. Edward Goma
Coach: Michael Marum
IPSWICH JETS v EASTS TIGERS @ North Ipswich Reserve
SUNDAY 1:30pm – Live on Channel 9 / WIN QLD / NBN
The second of the two finals of the Intrust Super Cup this weekend will be as good if not better than the 1st v 2nd clash on Saturday in Townsville.
Both of these teams have finals experience from last year and both offer plenty from what we have seen so far in 2015. Ipswich are famed in the Intrust Super Cup for their extraordinary feats on the field, with short kick offs, side to side running, length of the field tries, and kicks on the first tackle after kick offs.
The Walker Brothers well known for giving their team the licence to make a play if they feel like it. Having players like Marmin Barba, and Carlin Anderson makes that freedom easier to achieve. This was certainly in evidence last weekend as they put 50 points on defending premiers the Northern Pride including a freakish try from the Ipswich fullback.
Easts are famed for being as tough a side as anyone in the competition, but often overlooked is their attack which has put more than one side to the sword in 2015. Both of these qualities were on show last weekend as they took revenge on their local rivals Wynnum by turning around the two in season losses into a win when it mattered.
The Tigers had enough in attack to surge out to a 26 point lead against the Seagulls, but had more than enough to weather a late Wynnum storm and hold on to win by eight points. Confidence will be high after winning a third consecutive finals game against their local rivals.
Both sides have star players all over the park, but the battle of the number 9’s will be a definite highlight, as well as the magic of Shaun Nona and the Tigers backline up against the equally exciting Ipswich backline.
This game is even harder to predict than Saturday’s game, and the need of additional time to sort out the winner wouldn’t surprise.
Prediction: Ipswich by 4 (after Extra Time)
Ipswich 32 Easts 24
Easts 18 Ipswich 16
Ipswich: $1.48 Easts $2.65
Line: Ipswich -6.0 Easts +6.0 – $1.90 each
Ipswich Jets: 1. Carlin Anderson 2. Marmin Barba 3. Richard Pandia 4. Nemani Valekapa 5. Brendon McGrady 6. Josh Cleeland 7. Dane Phillips 8. Josh Seage 9. Matt Parcell 10. Rod Griffin 11. Sam Martin 12. Kurt Capewell 13. Keiron Lander (c) 15. Kurtis Lingwoodock 16. Billy McConnachie 17. Liam Capewell 22. Fakahoko Teutau
Coach: Ben Walker and Shane Walker
Easts Tigers: 1. Donald Malone 2. Brandon Downey 3. Shane Neumann 4. Michael Kai 5. Richard Kennar 6. Shaun Nona 19. Brentt Warr 8. Liam McDonald 9. Tommy Butterfield (c) 10. Felise Kaufusi 11. Dayne Weston 12. Jake Foster 13. Troy Giess 14. Mathew Pitman 15. Matthew Zgrajewski 16. Francis Tualau 17. Billy Walters 18. Foisa Peni
Coach: Craig Ingebrigtsen