The Burleigh Bears have defeated the Tugun Seahawks, 36-24, in an epic Coast-2-Coast Earthmoving Cup Grand Final.
It was a grand final that will be remembered for years to come as the Seahawks mounted an incredible comeback, only for Burleigh to kick away late and claim their first premiership since 2012.
Mid-way through the second half the Bears had jumped to a 26-6 lead and it looked like they could coast their way to premiership glory.
Tugun, playing in their fifth consecutive grand final, had other ideas and scored three times in ten minutes to come within just two points.
The Bears scored twice in the final ten minutes to put the game to bed, but it was a remarkable game with some sparkling rugby league.
“There’s a massive feeling of relief at the moment,” Bears coach Matt Foster said.
“When we went 26-6 up, I wasn’t expecting what came at us from Tugun. I was super impressed by their urgency to try and get back into the game. They just never seem to know when they’re beaten.
“They beat us at their place at the start of the year when we were 24-6 up early on, so I was really impressed by what they did again today, but at the same time, at the start of the year we couldn’t have stopped that roll-on.
“We had the team spirit and the will and the desire to do that today and that’s what pleased me as much as anything.”
Seahawks coach Selwyn Apanui was disappointed to walk away as runners up once again, but he and his team held their heads high after a stunning second half in the face of adversity.
“It was looking like it was going to be a fairytale. The boys were courageous and it was an awesome comeback,” he said.
“I’m glad they didn’t toss it in. At that particular point in time is when Burleigh have been putting teams away and putting 50-60 points on teams this year. Our boys dug deep and found something.”
The under 19s and reserve grade finals played earlier in the day were both low-scoring, defence oriented games and it looked like the A-Grade final was going in a similar direction.
A Jamie Anderson double for Burleigh and a last minute Bodie Clarke barge-over for Tugun were the only points in a 10-6 first half.
It didn’t take long for the game to open up dramatically in the second half, however.
Bears centre Corbin Kiernan, who engaged in a terrific battle with opposite number Tu Whakatihi, finally found some space and hit the afterburners in the 43rd minute. His break was backed up by Waka Wanahi who raced away to score.
Shortly after it was prop Shaun Maloney who did it himself; bursting through the front line, beating the fullback and scoring a tremendous try under the posts.
On the next set of the six the Bears were at it again as Khan Ahwang sliced into the back field and kicked for the corner, eventually finding Carne Rhodes who scored to give Burleigh a 20-point lead.
The Burleigh supporters were rightfully celebrating what they thought was a premiership winning run of momentum, but, as they have done so many times over the years, Tugun refused to lay down.
Tim Matenga showed brute strength to muscle his way over for a confidence building try in the 61st minute which gave them a glimmer of hope.
Three minutes later, fullback Corey Morris made a break through the middle, linked up with Robert Apanui on his left, before the ball again ended up in the hands of Matenga who slammed the ball down in corner.
The Tugun faithful started to believe as Keanu Te Kiri stepped up and slotted the sideline conversion.
When Barlen Wilson scored in the opposite corner in the 67th minute and Te Kiri slotted another sideline conversion what seemed impossible just ten minutes earlier suddenly seemed almost inevitable.
Sadly for Tugun, their momentum stalled on the ensuing kick-off as they fumbled and handed Burleigh possession ten metres off their line.
Halfback Jacob Grant strolled over for Burleigh on the following set of six as the Bears regained control.
A Connor Toia try in the 75th minute was the icing on the cake as the Bears rejoiced in a deserved premiership. Two try hero Jamie Anderson was named man of the match.
BURLEIGH BEARS 36 (Jamie Anderson 2, Waka Wanahi, Shaun Maloney, Carne Rhodes, Connor Toia, Jacob Grant tries Khan Ahwang 4 goals) def TUGUN SEAHAWKS 24 (Tim Matenga 2, Bodie Clarke, Barlen Wilson tries Keanu Te Kiri 4 goals)
TUGUN SEAHAWKS 8 (Dave Ipo, Jerry Byers tries) def BEAUDESERT KINGFISHERS 6 (Daniel Johns try Nick Harkin goal)
BURLEIGH BEARS 18 (Jordan Waterworth, Josh Rogers, Liam Wyper tries Josh Rogers 3 goals) def BILAMBIL JETS 6 (Kirk Murphy try Kirk Murphy goal)