Bears aim up in gritty win

The Burleigh Bears have held on to defeat the Mackay Cutters 22-14 in slippery conditions at Pizzey Park.

In a nail-biting contest that went down to the very last play, the Bears managed to defend their line gallantly in the dying stages while Mackay failed to capitalise on their chances.

“There have been times this year, and last year, where we wouldn’t have won that game,” Bears coach Carl Briggs said.

“It was a great test of character and I think we’ve turned a corner with that performance.

“We just knew if we completed our sets and played the game in Mackay’s 20 we’d have a chance. The boys knew they had to front up defensively and they did.

“I don’t know how many sets Mackay had on our line or in our 20, but that’s an area of our game that I’ve been critical of recently, and in the last few weeks there’s been a marked improvement.”

Burleigh got away to a flying start when Matt Keating, who was a big contributor in his first game since round four, put a deft grubber kick into the in goal leading to a Henare Wells try.

The Cutters hit back soon after through Curtis Rona who beat several defenders on his way to the line in the ninth minute while a Bears error seven minutes later gifted a try to Chris Ulugia.

Neither try was converted but a barnstorming run by Glenn Hall, in which he ran over the top of three Burleigh defenders, saw the visitors stretch their lead to eight points.

On the stroke of halftime Ryley Jacks, playing in his third Intrust Super Cup game for the Bears, crossed from close range to cut the margin to just four at the break.

The second half was a hard slog for both sides as the rain continued to come down steadily.

A try out of dummy half to Matt Keating saw the Bears regain the lead with a quarter of the game remaining.

Mackay had plenty of chances in the final 15-20 minutes. Much of the game was played on the Burleigh line and the Cutters went close on a number of occasions, only to fall short each time.

A penalty goal attempt in the 73rd minute would have tied the game for the Cutters, but the attempt was waved away.

Another dummy half try in the dying seconds, this time to Nafe Seluini, sealed the 22-14 win for the Bears.

Prop Mark Ioane was superb for Burleigh and was rewarded with the XXXX man of the match award.

Ioane was immense in the middle and played huge minutes including the entire first half.

“He was outstanding,” Briggs said.

“His work rate; 30-odd tackles, 20-odd hit ups, he played 40 minutes straight. Sometimes as a coach you hit the 25 minute mark and think of changing him, but he was just as strong in the back end of that half as he was at the start and he was causing Mackay all sorts of trouble.”

Cutters coach Kim Williams was frustrated after the game, but still praised the defensive efforts of his men and the team spirit they have shown this year despite only picking up the one win so far.

“We’re just finding ways to lose games at the moment. It’s really frustrating,” he said.

“I think at crucial moments of the game we came up short. We dropped a couple of balls late in that second half that hurt us and then a couple of penalties hurt us as well.

“We were better this week than last week but we’re nowhere near where I believe we should be. We’ve had a lot of turnover of players and it’s just not coming together as early as I would have liked.

“We’re definitely a work in progress; young halves and a young team overall, but we’ve got to be better to beat teams in this comp.”

BURLEIGH BEARS 22 (Henare Wells, Ryley Jacks, Matt Keating, Nafe Seluini tries; Khan Ahwang 3  goals) def MACKAY CUTTERS 14 (Curtis Rona, Chris Ulugia, Glenn Hall tries; Liam Taylor goal) at Pizzey Park.