The Burleigh Bears kept their semi-finals hopes alive with a gutsy 28-20 win over the Cutters on Saturday night at Stadium Mackay.
After losing two key forwards early in the game the Bears showed great resiliency to hold off the defending champions and move into sixth spot, just three points adrift of the top five.
“It was a courageous effort, really,” Bears coach Jimmy Lenihan said.
“We lost Kyle McConnell half way through the first half (shoulder) and Chris Kitching did a hamstring about five minutes into the second half so we played the rest of the game with two players on the bench and probably had three or four blokes hobbling through the game with injuries as well.
“We got pretty desperate in the second half, it got pretty tough for us, but we showed a lot of character and pushed through in a game where we probably had every excuse to not win, but it was great to have the courage and win it.”
Things started well for the Bears as they established a 22-6 lead inside the first half hour.
McConnell, Brad Tighe, Conner Toia and Jamie Anderson all picked up tries before Mackay started their fight back.
Tries either side of halftime got Mackay back into the contest as Burleigh’s injuries took their toll.
Mackay cut the margin to just two points with another try in the 58th minute putting Burleigh under all sorts of pressure.
But, with less than five minutes to go, halfback Tyler Chadburn came up with the winning play.
His charge-down and resulting try meant the Bears returned home with an eight point win and two valuable competition points.
Lenihan praised the character shown by all his men but was particularly pleased with Dimitri Pelo who continues his unfamiliar role at hooker in the absence of injured trio Matt Keating, Nafe Seluini and Matt Beddow.
“They’ve all gone well, but Dimitri Pelo is doing a great job for us at the moment,” he said.
“He’s played centre and wing all his life and he’s played the last three or four games for us at hooker and we would have been lost without him.
“The role he’s doing for us at the moment is a bit of a ‘Mr Fix It’ going all over the place. Last night he played lock, hooker and in the back row for a bit; and he’s doing a really good job for us.”
Next Sunday the Bears return to Pizzey Park for the first time since round 16 and take on the Wynnum Manly Seagulls.
When they met in round five Wynnum thumped the Bears 46-6 and Burleigh will be looking to set the record straight.
“Last time we played Wynnum we got embarrassed heavily and they put a big score on us, so we’ve got a lot to play for,” Lenihan said.
“The situation we’ve got in front of us is that we’ve just got to keep winning. We can probably only afford to lose one more game for the rest of the year and maintain some control on our season, but we don’t want to let that game come too soon.
“Our next two games are PNG and Wynnum who are just above us on the table. That presents us with an opportunity to cut back their lead and put ourselves into a strong position to finish off the year with three home games."
BURLEIGH BEARS 28 (Jamie Anderson, Brad Tighe, Conner Toia, Tyler Chadburn, Kyle McConnell tries; Khan Ahwang 4 goals) def MACKAY CUTTERS 20 (Justin Tavae 2, Zac Santo, Doug Hewitt tries; Liam Taylor 2 goals) at Stadium Mackay.
Mackay Cutters: 1. Zac Santo 2. Liam Taylor (c) 3. Chris Ulugia 4. Josh Benjamin 5. Justin Tavae 6. Dan Murphy 7. Brent Warr 8. Sam Hoare 9. Dave Petersen 10. Karl Davies 11. Kelvin Nielsen 12. Chris Gesch 13. John Asiata 14. Doug Hewitt 15. Dan Beasley 18. Rohan Ahern 17. Mitch Day
Burleigh Bears: 1. Henare Wells 2. Khan Ahwang 3. Brad Tighe 4. Steve Michaels 5. Jamie Anderson 6. Conner Toia 7. Tyler Chadburn 8. Mark Ioane. 9. Dimitri Pelo 10. Matt Bell 11. Kyle McConnell 12. Louis Fanene 13. Darren Griffiths (c) 14. James Dunley 15. Siuatonga Likiliki 16. Chris Kitching 17. Sam Meskell