Innisfail Leprechauns booked their spot in a second straight Cairns District Rugby League A Grade Grand Final after a tense 24-16 win over rivals Tully Tigers at Barlow Park yesterday (Sunday).
With both Cassowary Coast sides evenly matched, Innisfail went in at the break with a narrow 16-14 lead thanks to tries from Fred Koraba, Rod Jensen and Adam Fichera.
Tully’s Jake Clifford and Innisfail’s Matt Healey traded penalties, and it was left to Koraba to seal Innisfail’s victory 90 seconds from time with his second try of the game.
Koraba, a CDRL Gold Medal nominee last year, was also named the LD Total Cairns Player of the Round for his game-clinching effort.
Innisfail coach Ty Williams said he was happy to get through a tough clash and give his side a week’s break.
“Tully came out very physical and it was one of those games that could have gone either way,” said Williams.
“We managed to hang in there, but we’ve got a few battered and bruised bodies, so we need the week off, especially after three hard games against Brothers (twice) and Tully.”
Williams said his Leprechauns side was in a better position to become premiers in 2015, after last year’s disappointing Grand Final loss against Cairns Kangaroos.
“Last year was a massive learning experience for us and it probably overwhelmed us, but this year we’ve learned not to panic,” he said.
“Although the job’s not done yet, we’re a lot more relaxed and we’ve learnt a lot from last year in regards to preparing normally for games and treating the Grand Final as just another game.”
Williams said he would be a keen observer at this weekend’s clash between Tully and Ivanhoe Knights, who shocked Cairns Brothers with an 18-10 Elimination Final win.
“Ivanhoes have been really good this year, and it is a real danger game for Tully, with everyone expecting Brothers to win against the Knights,” said Williams.
“Hopefully there will be extra-time so it helps us even more in the Grand Final!”
Ivanhoes, who finished fifth in the regular season, surprised Southern Suburbs last week and put together an even more impressive triumph against the highly-fancied Brothers.
Ben Rauter’s men led throughout the game and clinched a deserved win thanks to tries from Brad Quodling, Adrian Henley and Ben Reed and three Jared Verney goals.
“It was a good team win and everyone did their job,” Rauter told The Cairns Post.
“I don’t think our team listens to too many other people and they’re a pretty tight group. We went in with a plan and stuck to it.
“Defence wins finals but we know our defence needs to be better next week.”
Chey Bird was an understandably disappointed Brothers coach after the final whistle, feeling his team had missed a golden opportunity to keep their season alive.
“I’m very disappointed – it’s an opportunity lost,” he said. “Our roster could have done a lot more, but Ivanhoes were better on the day when it mattered.”
2014 CDRL A Grade – FINALS (Week 2)
SUNDAY 6 SEPTEMBER (Barlow Park, Cairns)
Innisfail Leprechauns 24 (Fred Koraba 2, Rod Jensen, Adam Fichera tries; Matt Healey 4 goals) def Tully Tigers 16 (Fabien Tauli 2, Troy Kapea tries; Jake Clifford 2 goals).
Ivanhoe Knights 18 (Brad Quodling, Adrian Henley, Ben Reed tries; Jared Verney 3 goals) def Cairns Brothers 10 (Robbie Swain, Kalani Anau tries; James Doolah goal).
Other CDRL Finals Week 2 games
RESERVES (Sunday 6 September, Barlow Park)
Cairns Brothers 40-20 Cairns Kangaroos
Tully Tigers 12-32 Yarrabah Seahawks
UNDER 18s (Sunday 6 September, Barlow Park)
Innisfail Leprechauns 40-22 Ivanhoe Knights
Tully Tigers 32-26 Cairns Brothers
SECOND DIVISION (Friday 4 September, Stan Williams Park)
Southern Suburbs 36-30 Cairns Kangaroos
Yarrabah Seahawks 24-10 Malanda Eels