By John Bignell
Although the Rugby League News gave the Crows little or no hope against the Falcons, the Mal Meninga lads had other ideas.
After last week’s double the Crows were run over by a determined Falcons squad in the Cyril Connell match, being flattened in the first stanza but rising off the ground to keep the Falcons to ten points in the second half.
It took just two minutes from kick-off before a penalty for lying on the player opened the opportunity for the Falcons to swing wide and the centre strode through ordinary defence and sent the unmarked Trace over in the corner, converted by Taylor and Sunny Coast led 6-0. A chip through almost resulted in another try but was saved by a Paulsen smother over the line. Another penalty resulted in the Falcons carting it downfield for Taylor to score and convert and the Falcons were doing it easy at 12-0. Poor discipline in the play the ball area resulted in a third penalty for holding down which resulted in a reefing forty metre gain, quick tap and with the Crows on their heels it was a fortunate let-off when the player was judged just short. The ensuing play the ball left Buckley to crash over the lone defender and took the score line to 18-0 from a third converted try in just twelve minutes. Jacob O’Shea and Bronson Buggy were trying hard to put players in holes which closed too quick while Derome Mafi, Teykoa Nagas, Kailum Freeman and Coby Gibbs found themselves defending relentlessly. Jack Kennedy, normally a tyro in defence was off his game but it was later explained that he had just completed three games in selection trials the day before and then suffered a eight hour car trip overnight to get to the game.
Play became a bit of tussle although the Crows remained on their line and not attacking the opposition in either defence or with the ball. Another player held up in-goal and a dropout led to another penalty, this time for offside and the Falcons attacked but a clearing kick went out on the full to finally give the Crows some ball. The ball was dropped on the first tackle and with the Crows not marking up and the attack again having men over on the left side the Crows let Barwick in for an easy converted try and the Falcons were soaring high with a 24-0 lead and ten to go for drinks. From the kick off the Falcons moved it downtown and overran the defence to post a 28-0 lead going in to halftime. Another disallowed try saved further punishment although the discipline had not improved with a penalty for holding down giving the Falcons one last chance to score before halftime which was defended well.
The players were playing tired and obviously disappointed that they couldn’t get a roll on into the game and when they dropped the ball in the set from the kick-off it looked as though a slaughter was on the cards as Sunny Coast raced in an easy try for a 32-0 lead. Finally the game turned into an arm wrestle and the defence of the Crows was frustrating the Falcons to the extent that the game was developing into a fierce struggle and there were occasions of retaliation after stiff defence rattled the ribcages of some Sunny Coast lads. Both teams had opportunities but either good defence or poor handling broke down many moments of brilliant play and it wasn’t until near the end, with two players sin binned for repeated niggling that the game opened up a little. An attempted shoulder charge went wrong and allowed the Falcons fullback to dart through for the final score of 38-0 in a game where one side was ready to play and the other was day dreaming. There will no doubt be some changes to the squad this week through injury and loss of form.
With Wide Bay State Carnival squad positions on the line from this game a better performance was expected from the Crows while the Falcons produced a well drilled game plan and were rewarded with a number in the named squad for the Bulls defence of the U16 Title in Cairns this year.
The Mal Meninga game had the undefeated Falcons up against an underdog Crows which would be a grudge match for bragging rights within the Central Division. The game began at a fierce pace but after a few sets they settled down. The Crows attacked but lost the ball in a tackle and the Falcons swooped to cart it downfield through their forwards until a little jink from Rafter wrong-footed the defence and Price converted the try for a 6-0 lead after five minutes. It took another five minutes for the Crows to come up with the equaliser through Joe Curran finishing off with a great winger’s try in the corner and Hayden Herbert landed the conversion from the sideline to lock up at 6-6. Both teams found it tough to gain the upper hand with Kyle Spry, Michael Giles and Lachlan Reid gaining metres up the centre only to have them stolen back by the opposition pack on changeover. Haydin Elsebach was prominent with some damaging runs from the back of scrums while the Marschke twins were giving good service to the outside men where Cody Maughan, Baidon Cooper and Daniel Kirk were scouring for that hole to get through the defence. A rare loose ball and quick play of the ball had Haydin Elsebach bullocking forward, neat step back inside and over for Hayden Herbert to again convert and take it to 12-6 with ten to go for the break. Strong defence was the order of the day and the Crows were jumping all over the place to chock up the gaps and keep the Falcons grounded until halftime.
The pressure in defence continued from the start of the second half and many an attacking raid from both teams was halted by last ditch tackles as the game see-sawed. It took a bruising run in the seventh minute from Daniel Kirk to break the deadlock when awarded a try with the ball dislodged in the tackle as he placed it over the line, converted by Hayden Herbert who was also prominent in defence around the rucks, and the score was out to 18-6. A great tackle by Jakob Leitch and the ball was dislodged with players over in a dangerous attacking move to the line by the Falcons. Crows attacked but a charge down on the last had the Falcons scooting for the line before Cody Maughan pulled off a try saving cover tackle and with the ball being lost the Crows had a let-off scrum feed. The Crows received a penalty for hands on the ball in the play the ball and proceeded to charge downfield until a poor pass put a stop to some good attack and the Sunny Coast got the feed. Ball lost on first tackle and Kirk was off supported by Kyle Spry who was dragged down inches short. A deft kick over the defence and Kaddison Millard regathered but ran out of room to place the ball and just missed the try. The Falcons regrouped and through some quick scurries soon had the ball down the other end and ready to go in but with no tackles left. Maughan made a mini break with a strong crashing run followed by a kick downfield for another scoring opportunity when a chip was put down and gave the Crows another six to score. A penalty for offside and Jesse Marschke put the kick over from in front and took the score to 20-6 with just over ten to go.
From the kick-off the Falcons got the ball back from a loose carry and immediately swung it wide for Dale Madden to finish off and the score moved to 20-10. With little time to go Ben Marschke made a scintillating break of seventy metres up the middle. A few more rucks and the kick to the corner just beat the hands of Curran for a dropout from the posts. Unfortunately for the Falcons the short shot failed to go ten metres and Jesse Marschke made no mistake to convert the penalty and bring up the final score of 22-10. Outstanding performances came from Clayton Dodt and Jakob Leitch in defence along with Kirk and Marschke while the back three of Curran, Cooper and Millard supplied great support to the inside backs of Crook, Maughan, Herbert and Marschke.
The Crows fly to Cairns next week to take on the Northern Pride and this game will be a must win to drive momentum towards a successful season and the final home games in Chinchilla and Gympie. Barring injury the strongest teams should be taking the field this weekend and hopefully the weather stays kind and the players switch on in what should prove to be two exciting clashes. Thanks also to all those parents and supporters who attend and encourage at each game – it is welcomed by players and staff.