The old age adage of forwards win games in tight matches, couldn’t be further from the truth. Pine Rivers and Mitchelton played some of the most brutal football seen this season in one of the most epic encounters.
The Panthers snuck into this week’s Grand Final with a heart stopping 24-22 win to go head to head with the Dayboro Cowboys in the Open 1 North Competition.
Such was the intensity and force of the defence by both sides, you could probably think that at some stages throughout the game, the arena resembled a Blitzkrieg, as bodies were stricken left, right and centre across the ground.
Both sides had everything to play for and both sides put on a glittering show for the hardy souls who made the pilgrimage to Tapout Energy Stadium. After 11 minutes though, the Bears cut loose on the blindside through explosive winger Lachlan Sushames and he found the ever present Jackson Dunnell in support to race in for a great Bears try.
But a moment of Bears ill-discipline resulted in a turnover to the Panthers from 10 metres out, that saw rampaging front rower Sam Patelsio bulldoze his way over for the black and reds first try.
With Andrew Starkey potting over the easy conversion, it was all locked up at 6-6.
The Panthers had talent spread right across the park. American Tomahawk’s player Kristian Freed was brilliant at fullback. He was kept busy all day from the general play kicking of Bears five eighth Jacob Laack and his kick returns were superb.
After some quick dummy half runs by Panthers hooker Paul Stanley, Mitchelton had already leap frogged up the paddock back into the Bears half and this allowed another superb pass by Andrew Starkey to find Alex Simpson who crashed in to record another great try.
At 12-6, the atmosphere was everything you would want in a Preliminary final, the players never took the the foot off the throat for the duration of the match and the bone crunching defence was something that was sending shudders down the spectators spines.
But the brutality of the game was also made up of some superb backline moves and this would eventually see halves Dunnell and Laack for the Bears set up the next try as they found the highly underrated wrecking machine of Viliami Taungatua.
As an impact player, Taungatua lived up to his reputation for his trademark cannonball runs and he was rewarded with another four pointer beside the posts.
With the scores now 12-12, it would need something special for one of the teams to nudge their noses in front and this is what the Panthers did and did well.
The Panthers responded with character and skill. Adrian Starkey again the orchestrator in what was a well drilled play that saw the ball spread wide out to his backline, which saw some clever drawing of the defence by centre Clint Donlan.
Donlan then found Cameron Starkey in support who beautifully went in to score his side’s third try and go into the break leading 18-12.
With the second half putting on more hits than a jukebox, again both sides endured some punishing defence. Panthers lead by Atherton, Patelesio and Simpson were scary. The phenomenal force of their monster hits could be heard echoing through the grandstand.
But with Pine Rivers going toe to toe like any good side, they also had their local hero’s flying the flag.
Teremoana, Bryce Turner and Vipulu who were taking more knocks than a front door were absolutely concrete like in defence.
In true contrast though, the real action in this half was being lauded by the halves of both sides. Dunell and Laack were killing it for the Bears.
For the Panthers Adrian Starkey and Madders had the ball on a string. The telling point though was in the 55th minute when second rower Jarrod Michael crossed for the first of two tries as he barged his way over to make it 18-18.
The Panthers looked a tad rattled after that try and lost a little composure in patches. A lapse of concentration by Mitchelton would see the Bears playing a game of hot potato with the ball that saw Michael again score identical tries to edge the Bears out to a 22-18 lead.
But never write off the black and reds of Mitchelton. For sheer skill and endurance this side is magnificent. Just as the Bears were going in for the kill, a fumble from the restart saw the Panthers go on the attack.
Excitement machine Nicholas Kisi burst down the blindside and found Donlan in support who went in under the sticks to score with just three minutes left on the clock. With Starkey nailing the conversion the see sawing game was not finished yet.
A mistake though from the kick off by the Panthers saw the Bears with one last shot at sealing victory.
With 40 seconds left on the clock, a thrilling grandstand finish was on the cards, but a cross kick from Dunnell sailed into touch to give the Panthers a pulsating 24-22 win.
In the earlier games, Brighton Roosters proved why they are a certain premiership threat by brushing aside a disappointing Bowen River Broncos 31-12 in the Open 3 Division. Best for Brighton were Thomas Rayward and fullback Sharrock and for Bowen Fred Tuua was superb.
In the Open 2 North Division, Moreton Bay Pride upset Mitchelton in a thriller going into the Grand Final with a 26-22 win over Mitchelton. For the Pride Ryan Lambert was superb outwide and joined by Jacob Aiana. For Mitchelton Robbie Burgin tried hard in defence with Dan Rowe a standout at halfback.