On a clear Saturday night; rugby league fans flocked to Sunshine Coast Stadium to watch the Falcons and Dolphins pay tribute to James Ackerman in what was a wonderful night for the game.
While the 16-12 final score line suggested a close match; in reality the Dolphins led from pillar to post and never looked like losing – despite scoring two tries to the Falcons’ three.
The teams opened with all the energy and enthusiasm you would expect in such an emotionally charged affair and it was end-to-end stuff early as they both made metres out wide.
Zach Strasser opened the scoring for the Dolphins in the 9th minute when he beat two defenders to score under the posts with Darren Nicholls converting for the early 6-0 lead.
Sunshine Coast responded with arguably their best period of the game with Patrick Hollis and Tui Kamikamica making big metres. A Ryley Jacks cut-out pass, off the back of the good work from his forwards, put Tony Tumusa into space on the left and he crashed over to make it 6-4.
With one minute to go until the break, Redcliffe trapped the Falcons in-goal and in a poor turn for the home side, they had a player in front of the kicker from the drop out resulting in a penalty which Nicholls duly slotted for an 8-4 lead at halftime.
The Falcons opened the scoring in the second half with a piece of individual brilliance from excitement machine Eddie Tautali. When coach Ingebrigtsen left the Tigers at the end of last season, he only took two players with him, inspirational leader Troy Giess and Tautali, who was the Falcons best last night.
With one scintillating run, he displayed his pace, swerve and elusiveness to leave the Dolphins defence grasping at his shadow as he levelled the scores at 8-8.
However, the next five minutes proved costly as his team-mates dropped the restart and Redcliffe winger Aaron Whitchurch scored two tackles later. Nicholls bounced the conversion in off the uprights to see his side lead 14-8. Two minutes later, the Falcons were penalised in front and Nicholls was again on hand to pot another goal to extend the margin to an eight-point lead.
The Falcons last try also came from another piece of Tautali brilliance. Jacks put up a cheeky chip and chase on the last tackle, Tautali swooped on it and flew 20m before releasing Rowan Klein to score in the left. Like all their past conversion attempts – this one also missed and the scorers were settled on 16-12.
On the match, the Dolphins pack was simply too big and strong for the Falcons with Tyson Andrews and Hayden Hansen particularly impressive. Half Strasser looked dangerous with ball in hand and Tom Opacic was a constant threat out wide.
The Falcons were by no means outclassed and along with Tautali and Hollis, Kamikamica and Ryan Hansen were their standouts; but the whole side again showed they have the ingredients to challenge anyone in the competition.
REDCLIFFE DOLPHINS 16 (Zach Strasser, Aaron Whitchurch tries; Darren Nicholls 4 goals) def SUNSHINE COAST FALCONS 12 (Tony Tumusa, Eddie Tautali, Rowan Klein tries) at Sunshine Coast Stadium.
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