Preston Campbell has guided Runaway Bay to the second week of the Coast-2-Coast Earthmoving Cup finals with a 36-22 win over Currumbin Eagles at Bycroft Oval.
The 38-year-old former Dally M Medal winner was in everything for the Bay, and while plenty of others shined it was Campbell who orchestrated the elimination of Currumbin from the 2015 competition.
He had try-assists, his long kicking game consistently put Currumbin under pressure and he made a number of big defensive plays including one try-saving tackle in cover defence late in the second half.
Bay coach Shayne Boyd said the input of Campbell and fellow NRL alumni Clinton Toopi were invaluable on the night as they have been all season.
“His kicking game and just his ability to steer the team around the park and keep everybody composed is very, very important to us,” he said.
“He was great tonight and he along with Clinton Toopi have been important for us all season.”
It was a highly entertaining game of rugby league that allowed both sides to shine at various stages.
The Eagles started the game with plenty of fire and were rewarded with the first try when their own NRL veteran, Matt Geyer, plucked an intercept and ran 40 metres to score the opening try.
Ten minutes later second rower Steve Gillett beat several defenders on his way to the line as Currumbin dominated possession in the opening exchanges.
It took 20 minutes for the Bay to get on the scoreboard and they did so by spreading it wide to Ian Fuaivaa who scored in the corner.
Shortly after, Preston Campbell put fullback Michael Davis through a hole and when Ben Thompson charged over in the 32nd minute the Bay had the lead for the first time.
Currumbin scored one more time through Matt Hundy to ensure the scores were level at the break.
It was evenly poised coming into the second stanza, but the Bay lifted significantly in the second half and Michael Davis kicked things off with a lovely chip and chase which led to his second try.
It was backed up with quick tries to Neil Muller and Vili Tuli which saw the Bay go past 30-points.
A second try for Ian Fuaivaa in the 68th minute took the score out to 36-16 and put the Bay in an unbeatable position.
Currumbin fought to the end and scored another try through Jason Hackett, but it wasn’t enough to extend their season to next week.
Boyd said it was his side’s ability to hold onto the football that was most pleasing and that he is looking forward to next week’s elimination final against either Tugun or Tweed.
“We had a game plan and stuck to it tonight. I’m actually really happy with how we went,” he said.
“At one stage in the second half we completed ten sets in a row. That possession and control is what got us over the line.
“We’re keen to take on whoever we have to meet. They’re both good sides; we’ve beaten Tweed before and nearly beat Tugun earlier in the year, but they’re both good sides and we’re looking forward to next week.”
Earlier in the day Southport defeated Bilambil 36-10 in reserve and Bay’s under 19s defeated Southport 16-10.
Tugun Seahawks outlasted Tweed Heads to notch a 30-16 win at Boyd Street and move to within one game of a fifth consecutive grand final.
In a fiery semi-final clash filled with physicality, the Seahawks did enough to hold out Tweed and advance to next week’s major semi-final against Burleigh.
At one stage during the second half when the Seahawks led by just six, Tugun were reduced to 11-men and were forced to defend their line for a long period of time.
The Seahawks were under immense pressure and all the momentum was with Tweed, but the home team managed to hold their line and that defensive steel was ultimately what got them the win.
Seahawks coach, Selwyn Apanui, said it was a scrappy performance overall but was happy to come away the result regardless.
“I think our last month has been pretty good defensively,” he said.
“It’s probably the thing that kept us in the game. In the past, it hasn’t, but today it definitely paid dividends.
“Seagulls are a good outfit, they were strong today, but our line defence was solid. I guess you’ve just got to win these games at this time of year no matter how you do it.
“It was a fiery game and it was a good game, but we’ll need to be a lot better if we’re going to be any contest for Burleigh next week.”
The game started with a bang for the Tweed who opened the scoring in just the 5th minute through centre Tim Cassidy.
They controlled much of the next 20 minutes as the Tweed enjoyed a dream start.
Tugun didn’t get a chance to strike back until the 24th minute when hooker Chris Thomas found a way to the line from dummy half.
From there, the Seahawks took the ascendancy and a try to Drumayne Dayberg-Muir saw the home side jump to a 12-6 halftime lead.
Five minutes after the break they were in again as Keanu Te Kiri set up Corey Morris for a 12-point lead.
It looked like a comfortable lead, but the complexion of the game changed once again when Tweed halfback Zac O’Brien scored in the 50th minute.
Suddenly, the Seagulls were within striking distance and found the fire that saw them lead early.
In the 60th minute, Seahawks fullback Corey Morris found himself in the sin-bin for a professional foul. Within five minutes, Bodie Clarke along with Tweed’s David Sheridan and Shaun Anderson were all in the bin with him due to various scuffles.
All the while Tweed continued to attack Tugun’s line, but the Seahawks refused to let them in.
After absorbing all that pressure on their own line, the Seahawks responded with back-to-back tries to Robert Apanui and Tim Matenga in the 69th and 71st minutes to put the game out of reach.
David Sheridan crossed three minutes from time, but it was only a consolation as Tugun walked away with a 14-point win.
The result means Tweed will return home next Saturday to take on Runaway Bay in an elimination final, while Tugun will take on minor premiers Burleigh at Pizzey Park in a grand final qualifier.
The Bears will be fresh after getting this weekend off and they haven’t lost a game since the Seahawks beat them way back in round three.
“We’ve got a fair bit of work to do before next week’s game if we’re going to be in any sort of contention,” Apanui said.
“We’ve got to turn up and be in the game for 80 minutes. Burleigh is a very, very good outfit and there is not a lot of weakness about them, but we’ve got to just keep plugging away and hopefully something comes our way.”
Earlier in the day Beaudesert defeated Burleigh 26-16 in reserve grade while Bilambil defeated Tugun 16-14 in the under 19s.