There were points aplenty at Tapout Energy Stadium yesterday as the Easts Tigers and Townsville Blackhawks played out an exciting 40-40 draw in front of the Channel 9 cameras.
The Blackhawks however could be allowed a sense of disappointment as they were on the cusp of winning what may have been the year’s best Intrust Super Cup clash, leading 40-34 with two minutes to go after surging back from a 12-point deficit.
But the Tigers regathered a short restart, got the benefit of six more tackles and then got an equaliser when Donald Malone barged under the posts – his third try of the afternoon.
It was a bitter pill for the Blackhawks to swallow after playing much of the game without lock Neville Costigan — who was sidelined with concussion after 17 minutes — and prop Ricky Thorby, who was stretchered from the field just after the hour mark as a precautionary measure following heavy contact.
Thorby had scans overnight, but could be available for this weekend’s away game against the PNG Hunters.
Blackhawks coach Kristian Woolf conceded his team succumbed to the Tigers niggle; a case-in-point being Mosese Pangai getting put on report and sin-binned for 10 minutes after head-butting a Tigers player during a second-half melee.
“Easts play with a lot of niggle and they had a bit of success with us,” Woolf said.
“We certainly have to be smarter, handle it better and stick to our own guns.
“We just weren’t smart enough at the end, and I guess they got a lucky penalty to get that extra set of six, but full credit to Easts as well.
“It’s a good reminder that we need to keep working hard, and intensity-wise and with the calibre of team we faced, it is a taste of what we can expect come finals.”
The Blackhawks still hold an outright lead on the competition ladder, but their heavyweight billing failed to intimidate the Tigers, who instead appeared to relish getting in the Blackhawks faces.
Two early tries through Malone and playmaker Shaun Nona got Easts to a 10-lead inside the first five minutes, although Glenn Hall got Townsville on the board soon after with a powerful run to the tryline.
The hosts hit back to lead 16-6, but Thorby barged over to get Townsville’s second to close the gap, and Kyle Feldt soared over in the corner to give the Blackhawks an equaliser.
Michael Parker-Walshe scored the first of his three tries less than 10 minutes before half-time, giving Townsville a 22-16 lead, but the floodgates remained shut this time, with Easts recovering with two tries to have a 28-22 buffer at the break.
The drama stepped up in the second stanza, with Pangai put on report early in the piece, and the ill-feeling continued with sporadic flare-ups for the rest of the game.
When Thorby was stretchered off and prop Liam McDonald scored for Easts with less than 30 minutes remaining, Townsville had a mountain to climb trailing 34-22.
However, a quickfire double from Parker-Walshe — one try coming from a great sideline run and grubber from Zac Santo — got the Blackhawks back on level terms.
A great finish from Santo then appeared to hand Townsville a remarkable win, only for Malone to steal a draw for the fifth-placed Tigers.
There were strong performances across the board for both sides – with Easts hooker Tommy Butterfield claiming the XXXX man of the match honours for the second time in as many weeks.
EASTS TIGERS 40 (Donald Malone 3, Brandon Downey, Shaun Nona, Liam McDonald, Foisa Peni tries; Shaun Nona 6 goals) drew with TOWNSVILLE BLACKHAWKS 40 (Michael Parker-Walshe 3, Zac Santo, Kyle Feldt, Glenn Hall, Ricky Thorby tries; Kyle Feldt 6 goals) at Tapout Energy Stadium, Langlands Park.
Easts Tigers: 1. Donald Malone 2. Maeli Seve 3. Shane Neumann 4. Michael Kai 5. Brandon Downey 6. Shaun Nona 18. Brentt Warr 8. Felise Kaufusi 9. Tommy Butterfield 10 Liam McDonald 11. Dane Hogan (c) 12. Jake Foster 13. Troy Giess 14. Francis Tualau 15. Matthew Zgrajewski 16. Foisa Peni 17. Dwayne Craft
Townsville Blackhawks: 1. Jahrome Hughes 2. Zac Santo 3. Kyle Feldt 4. Mosese Pangai 18. Robert Lui 6. Tom Humble 7. Michael Parker-Walshe 8. Lorenzo Ma'afu 9. Anthony Mitchell 10. Daniel Beasley (c) 11. Noel Underwood 12. Kelepi Tanginoa 13. Neville Costigan 19. Glenn Hall 15. Chris McLean 16. Corey Jensen 17. Ricky Thorby