The Tugun Seahawks have qualified for their fifth consecutive Coast-2-Coast Earthmoving Cup grand final thanks to a 22-16 win over Tweed Seagulls.
In front of a big home crowd at Boyd Street the Seahawks came from behind to book a date with the Burleigh Bears in next Sunday’s decider at Pizzey Park.
Seahawks coach Selwyn Apanui said the club’s fifth straight grand final appearance will mean just as much as the first one did back in 2011.
“There are probably more people here today than there will be at the grand final and to them it’s extra special,” he said.
“It’s not just the 17 players that are riding this home. There were hundreds of people here today riding us home all the way.
“Try telling them that next week means nothing. This grand final is as special as every other we’ve played in.”
The game itself was a tremendous contest and a classic preliminary final.
Tweed got away to the dream start with tries to Kurtis McDonald and Ethan Price coming within the first five minutes.
The Seahawks got on the board in the 20th minute through Tim Matenga, but they were shell-shocked early and Tweed hammered home the advantage with Luke Dumas scoring from dummy half to make it 16-6 after 25 minutes.
As halftime approached, Tugun slowly started to turn the tide in their favour and a try to Barlen Wilson in the 35th minute gave them the confidence boost they needed.
Shortly after the break, Seahawks skipper Robert Apanui showed pure strength and determination to power over the line and bring the scores level.
The veteran back-rower then scored his second in nearly identical circumstances to put his side in front for the first time with 15 minutes remaining.
Seagulls dominated possession and field position in the final 15 minutes, but desperate Tugun defence denied them time and again as the Seahawks held on to a thrilling victory.
“I’ve said it all year; Seagulls on paper are one of the teams to beat,” Apanui said.
“They’re very, very strong 1-17. Our boys had to earn their points today. Letting them jump out to a 10-point lead wasn’t ideal, but credit to our boys. We stayed composed and ground out the win.
“I guess it takes us back to when we played Tweed here a couple of weeks ago and defended our line and held them to six points in the second half. That was our backbone again today and we had to try and hold Seagulls up as long as possible.”
Tugun take on the Burleigh Bears in the Coast-2-Coast Earthmoving Cup at Pizzey Park next Sunday afternoon from 3pm.
Earlier in the day Tugun defeated Burleigh 18-10 in the reserve grade preliminary final, while Bilambil scored late to sink Runaway Bay 22-20 in the under 19s.
TUGUN SEAHAWKS 22 (Robert Apanui 2, Barlen Wilson, Tim Matenga tries Keanu Te Kiri 3 goals) def TWEED HEADS SEAGULLS 16 (Ethan Price, Luke Dumas, Kurtis McDonald tries Zac O’Brien 2 goals)