Reigning premiers Kangaroos and title aspirants Innisfail shared a thrilling 26-26 draw in their David McCoy Homes Cairns Key Real Estate District Rugby League A Grade catch-up game on Saturday at Vico Oval.
The Kenfrost Homes Game of the Round was one Roos could not afford to lose, and the hosts led by 10 points with just three minutes remaining, before two dramatic late Innisfail tries – the last to winger Luke Fleming in the dying seconds – reeled them in.
Leprechauns full-back Hayden Topliss had the chance to seal an unlikely win for the visitors but his conversion attempt after the siren drifted wide.
Earlier, Roos centre Bradley Stephen bid farewell to his teammates in style with two tries, with Stephen now leaving the club to join the Navy.
The result sees Kangaroos leapfrog Brothers into that vital fifth and last finals spot, now one point ahead of the Brethren with just three rounds remaining.
Meanwhile, Innisfail’s hopes of the minor premiership took a blow, with the Leprechauns now one point behind Cassowary Coast rivals Tully.
Kangaroos coach Michael White was frustrated his side could not hold on for a vital win, but was pleased to secure the point which leaves the race for the finals in their hands.
“We certainly have mixed feelings – we can now control our own destiny, but we’re disappointed we weren’t able to close it out,” White said.
“But I certainly think we’ve turned a corner after what has been an up and down season for us.
“We’ve got a much more positive attitude and some extra steel back in our defence, and with a few of our key players back on the paddock, it’s all looking much better.
“Saying that, we do need to continue to get our attitude spot on, particularly in the back end of games where our inconsistency has cost us a bit this year.
“We’re still a very young side, and if we can learn to close games out, we’ll be confident going into the finals.
“But we’ve still got plenty of work to do to get there, starting against Edmonton this weekend.”
In their last three must-win games, Kangaroos entertain Edmonton before tricky trips to Ivanhoes and Mossman-Port Douglas.
After last week’s loss against Yarrabah, Innisfail must now rely on Tully to falter over the final rounds if they are to claim the minor premiership.
The other A Grade clash over the weekend saw fourth-placed Southern Suburbs clinch a crucial 24-14 win at Ivanhoes.
2014 David McCoy Homes Cairns Key Real Estate A Grade – WEEKEND RESULTS
Friday 1 August
Southern Suburbs 24 def Ivanhoe Knights 14 at Smithfield Sporting Complex.
Saturday 2 AugustKangaroos 26 (Stephen 2, Tamwoy 2, Doi 2 tries; Stephen goal) drew with Innisfail 26 (Topliss, Fleming, Growcott, Biondi-Odo, Jensen tries; Topliss 2, Biondi-Odo goals) at Vico Oval, Cairns.