By Mike Simpson

The XXXX Chairman’s challenge kicked off on Friday night with three representative teams (Brisbane, Gold Coast & Ipswich) doing battle in a round robin competition that unfolded over three fantastic days at the magnificent Brothers Ipswich RLFC.

The Carnival which saw players selected from their respective club sides, fought out the right to become champions of this great competition in front of some bumper crowds in attendance. Last year’s winners Gold Coast were out to reclaim the title they won last year over Brisbane and what unfolded in these matches was nothing short of breathtaking.

The competition was also a special one as one of the former BSDRL members Janice Gutugutuwai is courageously fighting an illness. Players wore specially designed jerseys in honour of Janice and it was a great way to say thank you for the hard work she has done over the years for the Brisbane Second Division.

Friday's opening match was that between Gold Coast vs. Ipswich in the under 20’s which saw the Gold Coast sweep away Ipswich 32-14 in a gruelling tussle which saw the Gold Coast come from behind to snatch the game and continue their epic run of 6 consecutive titles. Both teams showed excellent execution with the ball; however it was the 6 unanswered tries that were piled on by the Gold Coast after trailing 14-0 early into the first half that was the talking point of the game. Outstanding for the Coast were Karl Lawton and Tauturu Hapuku and Ipswich were well served by Josh Leisemann and ball playing lock Faáaliga Salaivao.

GOLD COAST 32 (Jason Byrnes, Brandon Wakeling, Brad Cook, Brock Foggo, Luke Campbell, Joseph Weggert tries Brad Cook 3 goals) def IPSWICH 14((Kieren Saltner, Teofilo Laulu, Josh Leisemann tries; Josh Leisemann goal).

In Friday night’s other game, A-Grade saw Ipswich 16 on home soil secure a win over the Gold Coast Vikings 14 in a gruelling match up. Powerhouse performances by both sides were all that was needed to fire up a very parochial crowd in attendance. Led by the effervescent fullback Jarrod Biggs, the Diggers won a thriller in front of an enthusiastic home crowd. For the Vikings, five eighth Reece Worboys and hooker Mick Esdale were by far their best on the ground and the Diggers had some heroic efforts notably from wrecking ball prop Josh Afoa and playmaking half Jason Connors who has a wealth of Intrust Super Cup games under his belt with the East’s Tigers. It was the Diggers in the end however who got the win in a brilliant start to the weekend’s festivities.

Ipswich 16 (Tasi Graf, Brook Alofipo, Josh Roberts tries; Jarrod Biggs 2 goals) def Gold Coast 14 (Jesse Richardson, Jacob Grant, Peta Simmonds tries Kunro Kalo goal)

Saturday's first game saw the U20’s take the field with Brisbane taking on the Gold Coast in a come from behind win by the young Gold Coast side running out winners 28-24. In a game dominated by the Brisbane team, it was nothing short of a heroic effort by the Gold coast to snatch victory from under their noses. Superbly steered around the park by Karl Lawton and notable mentions to Bryce Thomas and Myles Donnelly, it was a crushing blow to the Brisbane side who threw away too many opportunities in the tightly contested match. Brisbane had a field day sweeping the ball across their young enthusiastic backline which resulted in some very well produced tries and were spearheaded by Pine Central number 6 Trent Blackman and North’s Dan Saú. It was the Vikings day however running out winners.

GOLD COAST 28 (Karl Lawton 2, Jason Byrnes, Tauturu Hapuku, Brock Foggo tries Brad Cook 4 goals) def BRISBANE 24.

The A-Grade game would see last year’s finalists Brisbane take on 2013 winners Gold Coast in a hotly contested match up. Brisbane who had a wealth of experience led by their courageous captain Cameron Joyce were unstoppable as they crushed the Vikings 38-16. Defences on both sides were hard hitting, but it was the cool calm and collective demeanour of the Brisbane boys who racked up the points. The Vikings showed glimpses of magic as tireless hooker Mick Esdale was showing up the middle in the rucks, but it was the kicking game of Brent Boyd, the leadership of Joyce and the hard hitting defence of Dan Culgan and Adam Kambouris that was the difference and took the Brisbane side into the half time break leading 22-0. The Vikings who tried hard notably by halfback Jacob Grant, were no match for a well coached Brisbane side who would now meet Ipswich in the final game.

BRISBANE 38 (Shaun Rees 2, Tyrone Lockrey, Aaron Brown, Caleb Holland, Troy Rowbotham, Adam Marr,Lockrey 5 goals) def GOLD COAST 16 (Kunro Kalo, Jacob Grant, Mick Esdale tries Kunro Kalo, Michael Davis goals)

The final day of matches was nothing short of heart stopping. With a massive crowd piled in it was the u20’s who took centre stage first up and a well drilled Brisbane side managed to crush the hearts and souls of the Ipswich faithful with a bruising 28-12 win over the Diggers. For Brisbane fullback Justin Sleep was brilliant at the back, but it was Brisbane’s organizational skills and superb structured plays that saw them dominate throughout the game. Ipswich’s hard hitting back row of Salaivao, Faaiu and West were making some charging runs up the middle, but poor ball handling was their biggest opponent. Brisbane maintained composure throughout the second half and a double to Sleep was a highlight of the game. Further tries to Shield, Stewart, Chong and Ive made it impossible to for the Diggers to come back, but they made Brisbane fight to the death with some punishing one on one defence especially on their own goal line. With Brisbane winning it should be noted that the Gold Coast were eventual winners on countback.

Brisbane 2nd Div 28 (Sleep 2, Ive, Stewart, Shield, Chong, Shield Goals) def Ipswich 12 (Teofilo Laulu, Shaye Lund, Faitotoa Faitotoa tries).

In the A-Grade game it was a showdown between Brisbane and the home side Ipswich. To say this was an epic encounter is an understatement. In a see sawing game that saw the final score read 16-16, this was top shelf rugby league at it’s best. It was Brisbane to open up the scoring with classy five eighth Brent Boyd weaving and jinking his way through the Ipswich defence to score beside the posts. An easy conversion for Tyrone Lockrey added to the total with Brisbane taking an early 6-0 lead. Ipswich however hit back almost immediately with a barging run up the middle by Kaliova Nauqe who found Jarrod Biggs in support to race away and score under the posts. With Biggs converting his own try, it was all level at 6-6. Ipswich from the kick off were on the attack again and were soon in the Brisbane quarter again, some brutal defence by Daniel Culgan on halfback Jason Connors was the hit of the tournament, but it was all undone when the referee penalized the enthusiastic Brisbane defence offside. Biggs added another 2 points with a penalty goal from in front and had the Diggers out in front 8-6. There was an element of fortune in Brisbane’s next try with replacement James Crawford wrong footing the Diggers winger Seve and crashed his way over into the corner. With the conversion unsuccessful Brisbane hit the lead again 10-8 and sees them go into the sheds with a slim lead.

With Ipswich coming into the second half the hungrier team, rain was now playing havoc with both sides as it teamed down onto the ground, but the brave supporters stayed solid as this game was anybodys. 

 Ipswich were quick to raid the Brisbane tryline with 3 repeat sets of six but after a gallant effort by the Brisbane side, they could not endure anymore punishment and it was left to influential Ipswich Fullback Biggs again to go over and score in the corner. With Biggs converting his own try from the sideline it was a pumped up Ipswich back in the lead at 14-10.

Another penalty goal to Biggs for a late shot on Connors saw the Diggers now within striking distance to seal the game in the dying stages. The party however was going to be spoiled by Brisbane Captain Cameron Joyce as he on the back end of some phenomenal kicking by Boyd saw the Brisbane side within reach of a try and it was Joyce who from dummy half dived over beside the posts to score. He converted his own try and saw the 2 team’s battle out a thrilling 16-16 draw. Brisbane wins the competition on countback and a draw seemed a fitting end to a magnificent tournament.