Southport shines in Coast decider
Southport withstood a fast finishing Tugun to win the 2014 Coast-2-Coast Bycroft Cup grand final 24-18 at Pizzey Park.
It is the Southport Tigers' first premiership win since their triple threat in 2008-10 and comes on the back of three straight minor premiership wins.
“Not everything went according to plan, but at the end of the day we got the result we wanted,” Tigers coach Steve Dowd said of the win.
“It was a good, tough, physical game of football which I think everybody knew Southport and Tugun would deliver. We knew Tugun were going to come out hard after halftime and we were able to withstand it.”
Tugun came into the game as defending premiers and made a statement early with five-eighth Keanu Te Kiri scoring in just the second minute to give his team the dream start.
Southport however was not deterred as they managed to string together the next three straight tries.
Mick Esdale got things started in the 6th minute when he scored from dummy half, before halfback Drumayne Dayberg-Muir threw a cut-out ball to winger Jesse Richardson who scored in the 12th minute.
When centre William Namana scored a terrific solo try in the 19th minute the Tigers looked to be in control.
Shortly thereafter Tugun centre Dan Backo found himself in the sin-bin, but instead of hindering the Seahawks the incident managed to lift them.
Hooker and captain Daniel Webb was the man to lead the way as he powered over the line in the 28th minute and produced a long line break in the next set.
Despite scoring an extra try, two missed conversions for the Tigers meant the margin was just two points coming into the break.
It wouldn’t stay that way for long, as Dayberg-Muir threw a nice short ball to a barnstorming Watene Waenga in the 44th minute pushing the lead back to eight.
When Tigers skipper Tim Cannard scored in the 55th minute it again looked like everything was under control for Southport.
Tugun however are not a club known for folding when the chips are down and they continued to claw their way into the contest.
They regained some momentum as Southport started to turn the ball over but the decisive blow continued to elude them.
That changed in the 74th minute when veteran forward Chris Hodges charged his way through a few defenders on his way to the line.
It set up a grand stand finish and a Southport error in their own 20 with one minute to go gave the Seahawks the chance to send the game to extra time.
From the scrum Tugun spread the ball to the left and winger Joel Sykes found himself in space, only to be brought down by cover defenders; saving a try and the grand final in the dying seconds.
Southport captain Tim Cannard was named man of the match in what will be his final game after deciding to retire at the end of the season.
Cannard is a premiership winning Intrust Super Cup player with the Souths Logan Magpies and in 2013 he won the Gold Coast-Tweed Rugby League Player of the Year award.
“Our captain was great. He played 75 minutes in the front row. Not many can do that these days,” Dowd said.
“He’s all done now. His body can’t do it anymore. He is the toughest prick I’ve ever coached, so congratulations to him.
“I also thought Mick Davis was strong at fullback and I thought Willie Namana was real strong in the centres.”
Seahawks coach Selwyn Apanui, who has coached the side to all of their four consecutive grand finals, was disappointed with the loss but full of pride in the way his team performed.
Apanui said Southport have been the best side in the competition all year and deserved the premiership win.
“The boys dug deep. We were struggling towards the back end of the game, but the boys just seemed to lift to another gear, which was awesome,” he said.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything more from the boys today. Southport is a good outfit. If you give them any lead they’re going to hold it. The boys did well to get as close as we did.
While Southport is saying goodbye to their skipper, the Seahawks will be saying goodbye to veteran lock Robert Apanui who is also stepping into retirement.
Apanui , brother of coach Selwyn, played 135 Intrust Super Cup games for the Burleigh Bears before returning to the Seahawks a couple of years ago.
“I won’t be getting him out of retirement,” Selwyn Apanui said of his brother.
“He’s carrying injuries as well, I don’t know how he got through 80 minutes today but he just refused to come off the field.
“Getting down to those last five or ten minutes I’m sure he was counting down the minutes until it was all over, but he just found a way to keep going and find another gear.”
Apanui also praised fellow senior players Bodie Clarke, Martin Griese and Dan Webb as big game players and commended the display of his fullback Corey Morris.
SOUTHPORT TIGERS 24 (M Esdale, J Richardson, W Namana, W Waenga, T Cannard tries T Cannard 2 goals) def TUGUN SEAHAWKS 18 (K Te Kiri, D Webb, C Hodges tries V Buatava 3 goals) at Pizzey Park
RUNAWAY BAY 14 (N. Wilson, C. Nolan tries; J. Willets 3 goals) def CUDGEN 12 (Z. Catlin, Z Dorrough tries; B. O’Gormon, C. Zieball)
BURLEIGH 18 (D. Court, D. Walters, P. Woodward; K. Lucht 3 goals) def SOUTHPORT 10 (D. Moroney, S. Murray tries; S. Farrelly goal)