Week one of the finals in the Sunshine Coast’s Caloundra RSL A Grade competition produced, arguably, the best game of the season as the Caloundra Sharks overcame a 10 point deficit to record an 18-16 win over minor premiers the Kawana Dolphins.
Caloundra have failed to make a serious impression in their previous matches with Kawana in 2014 - However their persistence and much-improved discipline shone through in front of a healthy crowd at Kawana on Saturday night, leaving them one win away from a grand final berth.
However it wasn’t smooth sailing for the Caloundra early on. The match was only six minutes old when Kawana’s Joel Fitzgerald barged his way across the line to open the scorebook on the back of nervous errors by Caloundra – and when Louis Fesolai crossed 20 minutes later, it looked as if the Dolphins would take a strong lead going in to the break.
But that’s where the fun ended for the defending premiers, as Caloundra opened their account on the left edge five minutes before half-time through Luke Gillett. When Lance Ainsworth dashed 70-metres to set up Joel Kendall less than a minute later, the Sharks only trailed by two at the break.
Alarm bells were ringing for the Dolphins only two minutes in to the second-half, after speedy half-back Justin Otto nabbed a brilliant intercept pass and ran almost the length of the field to score under the posts, sending a group of die-hard Sharks fans in to a frenzy.
It wasn’t long before Kawana hit the panic button, drifting away from the game plan that has served them so well throughout the season - and uncharacteristic errors leading to Lance Ainsworth scoring off a chip-and-chase in the corner, when Kawana’s backs failed to knock the ball dead-in-goal.
The Dolphins regained their composure momentarily late in the match and Alex Copelin’s try in the 76th minute put them right back in the contest at 18-16. But the Dolphins players watched the ball sail over their heads from the ensuing kick-off and allowed it to bounce before crossing the dead-ball line, effectively ending any chance of a come-back.
The Dolphins will now have to win every game if they are to record their third-straight premiership, starting with a match against fierce rivals the Maroochydore-Coolum Swans in a sudden-death semi-final next Saturday night.
The Swans proved too good for the Caboolture Snakes in their semi-final, scoring a 24-16 win. Caboolture now face-off with the winners of the elimination-final the Nambour Crushers on Sunday.
While Nambour crushed the cellar-dwelling Noosa/Gympie combined outfit, ending their forgettable season with a 48-10 drubbing at Crusher Park, Nambour.
Caloundra RSL A Grade Cup – Week 1 SEMIS Results
Caloundra 18 (Tries: Ainsworth 1, Kendall 1, Gillett 1, Otto 1)(Goals: Otto 1) d Kawana 16 (Tries: Copelin 1, Fesolai 1, Fitzgerald 1)(Goals: Brown 2)
Maroochydore-Coolum 24 (Tries: Buckland 1, Kent 1, Barton 1, Reed 1)(Goals: Mendham 3, Reed 1) d Caboolture 16 (Tries: Aiton 1, Otter 1)(Goals: Maddick 2)
Nambour 48 (Tries: Millar 1, Brook 1, Bowd 2, Knight 1, Ward 1, Lawton 2, Madsen 1)(Goals: Millar 6) d Noosa/Gympie 10 (Tries: Brockwell 1, Greaves 1)(Goals: James 1).