A late try to local product Chris Kitching has seen the Burleigh Bears claim a dramatic 26-22 win over the PNG Hunters in front of a massive crowd at Pizzey Park.
4000 people packed into Pizzey for the ANZAC Day clash and the players on both teams delivered a spectacle befitting the occasion.
The Bears jumped to a big lead at the break, only for momentum to swing around drastically in the second half with the Hunters taking the lead with 10 minutes to go.
But the Bears stuck strong and Kitching, who 12 months ago was playing with the Tugun Seahawks in the Bycroft Cup, was the hero scoring under the posts with less than five minutes remaining.
It was a great reward for Kitching who was arguably the best forward on the field when he came off the bench.
“That was by far his best game at Cup level,” Bears coach Carl Briggs said of Kitching.
“He’s been consistent for us, but he was an absolute presence out there today.
“Chris is a work in progress. People forget that he was playing local A-grade last year.
“He’s stepped up to this level and he’s stepped up to this level in the front row. We’ve been bringing him on nice and steady and today he stood up against one of the best packs in the comp.”
In what was a high-paced and exciting game of football it was the Bears who gained the upper hand early through Zac Mackay.
Mackay’s fifth minute try was backed up by tries to Khan Ahwang and Matt Beddow to give the Bears a 16-point lead with less than 15 minutes gone.
Garry Lo got the Hunters on the board in the 29th minute, but the joy was short lived for the visitors with Steve Michaels scoring shortly after to again extend the Burleigh lead.
It was 20-4 at the break but could have been much more such was Burleigh’s dominance.
However everything changed in the second stanza with the Hunters coming back out with some incredible fire.
They were running and tackling harder which brought the large PNG contingent in the crowd to their feet.
The results on the scoreboard were immediate as well. Lo bagged his second in the 45th minute before Willie Minoga crashed over five minutes later.
The Hunters had all of the ball in the second half and dominated field position, looking likely to score on a number of occasions.
The breakthrough finally came in the 69th minute through David Loko, who scored next to the posts to give the Hunters their first lead of the afternoon.
But Burleigh was desperate and it showed when Kitching crashed over for the match winner.
“We showed a tremendous amount of character, that’s for sure,” Briggs said.
“The amount of character they’ve shown to be under the pump like we were for 39 minutes of that second half and then come back and score a try under the posts, it’s outstanding.”
It was a gut-wrenching ending for the Hunters who worked so hard to get into the lead only to have the game slip through their fingers at the death.
The huge crowd and wonderful atmosphere that the Hunters brought with them however has the Burleigh club eagerly awaiting their eventual return.
“You just wish it could be like this every week,” Briggs said.
“This is what PNG have given to this comp. There always has been an interest in the Intrust Super Cup, but there is a greater interest now.
“Their fans and the support they get is absolutely outstanding. They’ve been only a positive for this comp.”
BURLEIGH BEARS 26 (Steve Michaels, Khan Ahwang, Zac Mackay, Matt Beddow, Chris Kitching tries; Khan Ahwang 3 goals) def PNG HUNTERS 22 (Garry Lo 2, David Loko, Willie Minoga tries; Noel Zemming 3 goals) at Pizzey Park.
Burleigh Bears: 1. Henare Wells 2. Steve Michaels 3. Jamie Anderson 4. Khan Ahwang 5. Zac Mackay 6. Matt Beddow 7. Ryley Jacks 8. Luke Page 9. Matt Keating 10. Matt Bell 11. Jesse Malcolm 12. Kyle McConnell 13. Darren Griffiths (c) 14. Nafe Seluini 15. James Dunley 16. Chris Kitching 17. Siuatonga Likiliki 20. Dane Clarke
PNG Hunters: 1. Adex Wera 2. Garry Lo 3. Thompson Teteh 4. Albert Patak 5. George Benson 6. Israel Eliab (c) 7. Roger Laka 9. Wartovo Puara 10. Gonzela Urakusie 11. David Loko 12. Sebastian Pandia 13. Dion Aiye 14. Noel Zemming 15. Willie Minoga 16. Lawrence Tu'u 17. Adam Korave 18. Edward Goma 19. Brandy Peter