Innisfail Leprechauns produced a superb display to overpower Cairns Brothers 32-14 in their Cairns District Rugby League A Grade Qualifying Final clash at Barlow Park on Sunday.
The win, inspired by a hat-trick from unsung winger Ronald Ambrum, sets up a mouth-watering Grand Final qualifying game with Cassowary Coast rivals Tully Tigers this weekend.
The game was evenly poised at 14-14 at the break before the Leprechauns flexed their muscles after the break.
Ian Bounghi, Luke Romano and Dan Sagigi also got on the scoresheet for Ty Williams’ men, while Ben Fitzpatrick, Sonny Rea and James Doolah scored in the first half for Brothers.
Brothers will now face an Elimination Final against Ivanhoe Knights, who are enjoying their best season in years.
The Knights produced a superb defensive effort to edge Suburbs and keep their own 2015 premiership dream alive.
Ivanhoes utility Zane Pryor landed the LD Total Cairns Player of the Round for his brilliant all-round display, as well as his three-try salvo.
The Knights led 20-6 at the break, and although Suburbs enjoyed most of the possession in the second half, Ben Rauter’s team held on.
“Our defence was the most pleasing thing – but we gave them plenty of opportunities,” Rauter told The Cairns Post.
“The first week of finals was always going to be the hardest.
“I was happy to get that one out of the way.
“Any of the top three, we’d happily have a crack at them so we’ll look forward to next week.”
Suburbs were left to rue another missed opportunity, having fallen at the same hurdle 12 months ago.
“We were busted,” Suburbs coach Greg Annison told The Cairns Post.
“Ivanhoes’ defence was good but we just didn’t put enough pressure on them.
“We dropped the ball too many times and our defensive workload in that first half really hurt us.”
Tully Tigers had the week off as minor premiers.
2014 CDRL A Grade – FINALS (Week 1)
SUNDAY 31 AUGUST (Barlow Park, Cairns)
Innisfail Leprechauns 32 (Ambrum 3, Bounghi, Romano, Sagigi tries; Healey 4 goals) def Cairns Brothers 14 (Fitzpatrick, Rea, Doolah tries; Doolah goal).
Ivanhoe Knights 32 (Pryor 3, Munster, Barnard tries; Verney 6 goals) def Southern Suburbs 24 (Elliott 2, Nicolaou, Fourmile tries; Hanlon 4 goals).
Other CDRL Finals matches
RESERVES (Sunday 30 August, Barlow Park)
Edmonton Storm 20-44 Cairns Kangaroos
Yarrabah Seahawks 34-30 Cairns Brothers
UNDER 18s (Sunday 31 August, Barlow Park)
Cairns Kangaroos 12-20 Innisfail Leprechauns
Cairns Brothers 48-22 Ivanhoe Knights
C GRADE (Saturday 29 August, Barlow Park)
Southern Suburbs 56-18 Cairns Brothers
Cairns Kangaroos 10-42 Malanda Eels