Southport Tigers are the 2014 Coast-2-Coast Bycroft Cup minor premiers thanks to a 23-16 win over the Burleigh Bears at Pizzey Park.
With just one round of the regular season remaining the Tigers are three points clear of the second placed Bears and are guaranteed to finish on top of the ladder for the third straight season
The minor premiership means the Tigers get the first weekend of the finals off and it potentially fast tracks them into the grand final on September 14.
Tigers assistant coach Ron Brown said the club’s continued success can be put down to a wonderful culture and a tight nit playing group.
“We’re like a band of brothers,” Brown said of the seniors club.
“Over the last three years we’ve just been working at getting that culture together and it works.
“We’ve got a couple of niggly injuries with a couple of key players so the week off will do them the world of good and fix them all up and we’ll be pretty fresh come the semis.”
On the field it was the type of battle you would expect from the two top teams.
Southport opened the scoring in the 6th minute when James Barker won the race to a Dean Vinson grubber.
Second rower Vinson went from provider to finisher when he ran onto a nice short ball from halfback Drumayne Dayberg-Muir to extend the lead to 10-0.
In the 25th minute Burleigh got on the scoreboard when they shifted the ball through the hands to the right with Brad Smith putting it down in the corner.
The Bears drew level right after halftime when Kevin Nilan finished off a long range movement, but they couldn’t hold the momentum for long as Dayberg-Muir scored two minutes later to put the Tigers back in front.
Burleigh gained the upper hand soon after though and a try and sideline conversion to Dan Kerr gave the Bears their first lead of the day with 20 minutes to go.
But, once again, Southport had the answers.
Dayberg-Muir set up a try for Kimi Paki-Paki Hemopo before the boot of Dean Vinson put the game out of reach.
A crucial 40/20 with five minutes remaining, followed by a match-sealing field goal shortly thereafter capped a brilliant afternoon for the veteran back-rower.
“Dowdy sent the message out to get the ball into Dean’s hands and he’ll kick the field goal,” Brown said.
“He said ‘it doesn’t matter how far it goes or where it goes but he will get it over’ and he did. He had a really good game and got our man of the match.”
Next week the Tigers take on the third placed Tugun Seahawks in what should be another entertaining blockbuster while the Bears travel to Piggabeen to face rivals Tweed.
Elsewhere in the 16th round of the Coast-2-Coast Bycroft Cup the Bilambil Jets wrapped up their spot in the finals with a 16-12 win over Currumbin.
Currumbin and Runaway Bay were both alive in the finals race coming into the weekend, but Bilambil’s win puts it out of reach for both of them.
Bay drew with Tweed Heads 34-34 while Tugun thumped Cudgen 42-8.