It was an injury riddled Townsville and Districts Mendi Blackhawks who held Tweed Heads Seagulls scoreless yesterday at Piggabeen.
The visitors scored 28 points despite losing their starting hooker Anthony Mitchell within the first 10 minutes and their starting five-eighth Robert Lui soon after with a hamstring complaint.
Mitchell, who hit his head on the ground in the process of scoring the team’s second try; returned to the field in the 23rd minute but Lui was ruled out for the game.
The Mendi Blackhawks were up 10 -0 when both players left the field and appeared to struggle for direction and consistency until Mitchell returned. Losing both players caused a significant shift in player positioning on field, with Santo moving to fullback and Jahrome Hughes playing five-eighth.
Tweed Heads’ first serious crack at the Blackhawks line was thwarted by a forward pass in the 21st minute and poor ball handling prevented the home side from making it onto the scoreboard during the first half.
Former Cowboy Kalifa Faifai Loa looked the most likely to score points for the Seagulls with some impressive line breaks throughout the match.
A mistake from Tweed led to the Blackhawks third try before halftime with Tom Humble taking the ball to the line on the blind side before providing Kelepi Tanginoa with a short pass to hand him his maiden try for the Blackhawks and his team a 16-0 lead at the break.
Completion rates from both teams left a lot to be desired and both coaches reportedly called for more respect for the ball at the half time break. Tweed took the advice on board and were much more threatening in the opening of the second stanza, however fifth tackle options let the Seagulls down whenever they managed to get close to the opposition try line.
Penalties late in the tackle count gave the Blackhawks repeat sets on the Seagulls line, but the home side showed courage in their goal line defence and by the 68th minute had made 280 tackles to the Mendi Blackhawks 172.
Mitchell played a pivotal role for the Blackhawks in his milestone 50th Intrust Super Cup game.
Scoring a solo try and after returning to the field following a short break for injury, Mitchell settled his troops and showed excellent vision in his running game.
Tries for both sides were disallowed during the second half with Tweed’s Barnes ruled to have touched the sideline prior to grounding the ball following an impressive Faifai Loa break, and Blackhawk’s Neville Costigan penalised for interfering with the marker in the lead up to a Nathan Norford’s attempted try from 10m out.
Shortly after the disallowed try, the Blackhawks were back on the scoreboard after an evasive Santo got the ball out to Mosese Pangai who showed great athleticism to score in the corner without leaving the field of play. The final points of the match started with a Norford 40/20 in the 79th minute and finished with an easy try to Santo.
There were further injury worries for the visiting side late in the match as try scorer Pangai came from the field with an ankle injury and Costigan suffered a head clash with an opposition player.
Coach Kristian Woolf praised his side's ability to pull together in a difficult situation after losing players to injury.
“I thought it was one of our toughest performances of the season so far. We played the majority of the game without our regular playmakers and with others out of position. Full credit goes to the blokes who filled in admirably to get the job done,” he said.
“I was very pleased with our defensive efforts and although we weren't perfect, we showed great spirit to scramble and cover for each other when errors were made. Our defensive efforts are certainly something we can keep building from.”
TOWNSVILLE BLACKHAWKS 28 (Zac Santo, Mosese Pangai, Robert Lui, Anthony Mitchell, Kelepi Tanginoa tries; Kyle Feldt 4 goals) def TWEED HEADS SEAGULLS 0 at Piggabeen Sports.
Tweed Heads Seagulls: 1. Shaun Carney 2. Nathanael Barnes 3. Tim Cassidy 4. Davin Crampton 5. Kalifa Faifai Loa 6. Ricardo Parata 7. Jamal Fogarty 8. Damian Sironen (c) 9. Matt Srama 10. Oliver Percy 11. Matt Robinson 12. Dane Clarke 14. Sam Meskell 15. Leva Li 16. Hemi Mullen 17. Will Bugden 18. Jai Ingram
Townsville Blackhawks: 1. Jahrome Hughes 2. Zac Santo 3. Tom Humble 18. Mosese Pangai 5. Kyle Feldt 6. Robert Lui 8. Lorenzo Ma'afu 9. Anthony Mitchell 10. Daniel Beasley (c) 11. Glenn Hall 12. Rhyse Martin 21. Neville Costigan 14. Nathan Norford 15. Lenny Magey 16. Chris McLean 17. Ricky Thorby 22. Kelepi Tanginoa