The Burleigh Bears have stormed home in the second half to claim a thrilling 36-28 win over the Ipswich Jets at Pizzey Park today.
Trailing 24-12 at the break and looking in all sorts of trouble, the Bears came out breathing fire in the second half and played like the team many pundits predicted they could be.
“It was two different teams today,” Burleigh coach Carl Briggs said.
“The second half we showed what we’re capable of doing when we stick to a game plan and defend with pride.
“At halftime I was pretty scathing but that second half, I couldn’t be prouder of them to be honest.
“To be 24-12 down and looking down and then come back out and respond like we did, hopefully we’ve crossed a bridge today and we can kick on from here.”
Burleigh started the game strongly with tries to Matt Keating and Steve Michaels inside the first 20 minutes giving them a 12-0 lead.
However they soon lost their way and Ipswich gained the ascendancy.
Sam Martin, Tautalatasi Tasi and Matt Parcell all scored soft tries from close range in the next 15 minutes to put the Jets in front.
Burleigh’s first half capitulation was encapsulated in Ipswich’s fourth try which came on the stroke of halftime.
The Jets had the scrum feed less than 20 out from the Burleigh line with 60 seconds left in the half when Troy O’Sullivan took off all alone on the blind side.
He beat several Burleigh defenders to score the softest of tries and give his team a lead of two converted tries at the break.
Staring down the barrel of a third straight loss the Bears needed to react and they did so through Siuatonga Likiliki shortly after the break.
Steve Michaels was denied a second try due to obstruction four minutes later, but in the 61st Khan Ahwang ran 45 metres to score a brilliant solo try and level the scores.
Three minutes later Bears five-eighth Tyler Chadburn set up another great try by chipping ahead and regathering before finding Ahwang in support.
A penalty goal gave the Bears an eight point lead with eight minutes remaining, but the Jets weren’t ready to roll over.
Nemani Valekapa pounced on a smart grubber kick from Dane Phillips with five minutes remaining to set up the grand stand finish.
The Bears were not going to let this one get away from them though, and when Steve Michaels tapped back a grubber from beyond the dead ball line Henare Wells was on the spot to put the ball down for the match-sealing try.
There were plenty of stand outs for the Bears in the second half including Ahwang who has had a huge impact since joining Burleigh this season.
The competition’s leading point scorer coming into the game, he added another 20 points to his tally with two tries and six goals.
“He’s got that X-factor about him. He was outstanding today,” Briggs said.
“He was a constant threat with the ball and he kicks all those goals when you need them to keep your nose in front. That’s invaluable in itself.”
Prop Luke Page was tireless in the front row and was rewarded with XXXX man of the match honours while Louis Fanene again produced a quality 80 minute display.
Briggs was also full of praise for his young playmaker Tyler Chadburn.
“Tyler Chadburn stood up in the second half and showed us the footballer that he really is,” Briggs said.
“He is far from a finished article, but he has been here for two years now and that’s the best game I’ve seen him have.”
The only downside for the Bears was the loss of Matt Keating, who went off early in the second half with concussion. His condition will be assessed during the week.
Earlier in the day the Burleigh Colts defeated Ipswich 22-14.
BURLEIGH BEARS 36 (Khan Ahwang 2, Henare Wells, Siuatonga Likiliki, Steve Michaels, Matt Keating tries; Khan Ahwang 6 goals) def IPSWICH JETS 28 (Nemani Valekapa, Tautalatasi Tasi, Sam Martin, Troy O’Sullivan, Matt Parcell tries; Haydan Lipp 4 goals) at Pizzey Park.