Ipswich progressed to the next stage of the Intrust Super Cup finals series as they continued their great late season form by knocking out the Townsville Blackhawks in Townsville on Saturday afternoon.
Having only qualified for the finals on the last day of the season, and courtesy of the PNG Hunters last round slip up in Rockhampton, they were the outsiders on Saturday to beat the Blackhawks. But a few in the know were tipping the Jets, mainly as a result of the end of season momentum of a five game winning streak.
Another thought was that their different style would trouble the very well structured Townsville Blackhawks, and for a large part of the game that is what happened.
The Jets had a lot of the early running of the game, mainly thanks to getting a lot of ball from the Blackhawks due to failing to cleanly gather a lot of high kicks. Whether it was the quality of the kicks or sunlight, but it seemed the Blackhawks were unable to field any of them early. And the Jets eventually made them pay more than the early penalty goal that was calmly slotted by Marmin Barba in the third minute.
Of course if someone is going to score a try to take advantage it would be Michael Purcell, who duly obliged in the 9th minute after the usual side to side Jets movement was eventually straightened in the left corner by Isimeeli Hafoka and Michael Purcell was there to grab the perfect offload.
Ipswich then punished back to back Blackhawks mistakes, both within metres of either try line in attack and defence, with a try to Marmin Barba in the 25th minute after another failed attempt to catch a Jets bomb. Marmin Barba converted his own try and it was 14-0 after the 27th minute.
Michael Purcell scored again just before half-time on the back of a stray Blackhawks pass, and there’s probably no one finer in broken play than Purcell to take advantage of the situation with his speed. A third magnificent consecutive sideline conversion by Barba gave Ipswich a 20-0 half-time lead.
Townsville came out better in the second half, and indeed made it look like a real contest was looming with two tries in three minutes. The first to the deserving Andrew Davey, who was one of the hardest working players for either side. The second not long after to an equally deserving Corey Jensen, who also put in a big shift for Townsville. It was 20-12 with plenty of time to steal the game back.
But injuries and head knocks to key players hurt the Blackhawks chances in the second half, losing their fullback Zac Santio through HIA, Jaeleen Feeney, and the other half Shane Hudson. That left their original spine was just a 9 remaining from the starting line up, and they were punished in the end by Ipswich.
The first try went to Billy McConachie in the 65th minute as he slammed the ball on the line after a repeat set for the visitors paid dividends. And the game was wrapped up in the 73rd minute when Wes Conlon landed on a grubber to score the fifth Jets try and book another week in the finals series.
The game ended with some amusement as Wes Conlon reprising the infamous end to the game of the Adelaide Rams in the Super League era, where the Ipswich winger picked the ball up from well inside the opposition half and proceeded to run 70-80 metres back towards his own line, eventually going touch in-goal. But the Jets were far enough in front so end the game however they wanted.
Man of the Match, and deservedly so was Nat Neale, fresh from his win for player of the season for the Intrust Super Cup competition during the week. It is important to keep in mind that for all the side to side movement and attacking brilliance of the Jets, they can’t do it without some brute power, which on this day was provided by Neale, Billy McConachie and Ben Shea, amongst others.
Ipswich live to fight on another day next weekend, with a clash against the Tigers at Suzuki Stadium. They will be wary of the Tigers form too, as Easts won 32-0 in Cairns without some of their best players. Some knockout final awaits next weekend.
The worry for Townsville is the quality of their squads which can’t seem to get it right for finals series, as a result they went from favourites for the Minor Premiership a few weeks ago to knocked out in Round 1. There’s always next year, and with another strong squad, but a premiership has to come soon.
IPSWICH JETS 32
Tries: Michael PURCELL (9m), Marmin BARBA (25m), Michael PURCELL (36m), Billy MCCONNACHIE(65m), Wes CONLON (73m)
Goals: Marmin Barba 5/5 Conv, 1/1 Pens
TOWNSVILLE BLACKHAWKS 12
Tries: Andrew DAVEY (53m), Corey JENSEN (56m)
Goals: Levi DODD 2/2 Conv