Innisfail Leprechauns produced a superb comeback over 12-man Yarrabah to win a thrilling Cairns District Rugby League A Grade Qualifying Final clash 22-20 at Barlow Park on Sunday.
The Seahawks, the only side to have beaten Innisfail this year, looked like they were about to add their third scalp of the year over the Leprechauns when they led 20-12 in the second half.
This was despite Ross Maloney’s first-half sending off for the Seahawks.
However, Innisfail eventually wrestled control over their brave opponents, with a Corey Davis try and Hayden Topliss conversion proving enough.
Innisfail player-coach Ty Williams told The Cairns Post that full credit had to go to Yarrabah for the gritty performance they put in with 12 men on the paddock.
“It was a tough old game and it’s been the same every time we’ve played them,” Williams said.
“When they were down to 12 men, they dug in. We couldn’t put them away all season and I don’t think any team has.
“Full credit to them, but we dug in and were able to get the win.”
Innisfail will now take on Cassowary Coast rivals and minor premiers Tully Tigers in the Major Semi-Final this weekend.
“We’re going to have to be good,” Williams said.
“Across the board we all dug in, and I have always said that it’s going to take all 17 players to do well.”
Meanwhile, Yarrabah will now face reigning premiers Kangaroos, who were impressive in beating Southern Suburbs 38-14 in their 2013 Grand Final re-match Elimination Final.
Roos centre Bradley Stephen, who was last week nominated for the 2014 CDRL Gold Medal, was again outstanding with a personal tally of 16 points (two tries, four goals).
Stephen also set up two further tries, with fellow backs Jared Allen and Linc Port also dangerous and getting their names on the scoresheet.
“The whole team went well but obviously Bradley was a big danger,” Roos coach Michael White told The Cairns Post afterwards.
“He carved them apart a couple of times there.
“We had plenty of pressure on us, but the boys have trained really well all week. Pressure is a good thing at this time of the year.
“The plan was just to go with them early and stay with them. Defensively, it was one of our better performances.”
Tully had the week off as minor premiers.
2014 CDRL A Grade – FINALS (Week 1)
SUNDAY 31 AUGUST (Barlow Park, Cairns)
Innisfail Leprechauns 22-20 Yarrabah Seahawks
Cairns Kangaroos 38-14 Southern Suburbs
Other CDRL Finals matches
RESERVES (Sunday 31 August, Barlow Park)
Yarrabah Seahwaks 46-10 Southern Suburbs
Mossman-Port Douglas Sharks 44-20 Cairns Brothers
UNDER 18s (Sunday 31 August, Barlow Park)
Cairns Brothers 32-24 Yarrabah Seahawks
Tully Tigers 34-13 Innisfail Leprechauns
C GRADE (Friday 29 August, Vico Oval)
Edmonton Storm 52-8 Cairns Kangaroos
Cairns Brothers 32-28 Mossman-Port Douglas Sharks