The I Luv Coffee Burleigh Bears have returned to form with a thrilling 20-18 win over the PNG Hunters at Pizzey Park on ANZAC Day yesterday.
It was a tremendous bounce back and confidence booster for the Bears who were poor in their Round 7 loss to the Central Queensland Capras.
“After last week’s game where we were pretty ordinary, we had a real focus on our defence and a bit of structure which was good for us this week,” Bears coach Jim Lenihan said.
“To be pretty good defensively against Hunters was a good sign. It was a good contest and a pretty entertaining game.
“We needed that for ourselves today more than anything. The result was important, but the performance was probably even more important.”
Playing for the third annual Kokoda Cup, the game followed a familiar formula.
In the past two games between the Bears and the Hunters at Pizzey Park, the Bears have shot out to a big lead, only for the Hunters to come storming back into the contest in the second half.
That was again the story of Monday’s game, as the Bears took a 14-0 lead into the break, only for the Hunters to find form in the second half.
Burleigh got things started in the 10th minute when Kurtis Rowe, filling in at fullback for the injured Tyler Chadburn, scored a 70m runaway try.
The Bears extended their lead shortly after with a Jamal Fogarty penalty goal, before Lachlan Burr and Pat Politoni combined to give the Bears a handy 14-0 lead.
It was a perfect start from the home side, who used a strong wind advantage in the first half to force five dropouts and control field position.
However, the Hunters showed signs late in the first half that they were beginning to rally, and it took just moments after the break to open their account, with Oti Tony (Bland Abavu) crossing in the corner.
Burleigh stayed composed, and after forcing yet another line dropout, they conjured up a try for Connor Broadhurst on the left wing soon after.
That try gave the Bears a good buffer again, but it didn’t stop the Hunters who were suddenly full of running.
Burleigh were valiant in defence, but possession and field position began to mount in favour of the visitors, and a charging Timothy Lomai stormed over near the posts to bring the Hunters back within striking distance with 20 minutes to go.
In the 75th minute, the Hunters struck again with Justin Olam’s try cutting the margin to just two and setting up a grandstand finish.
The Hunters threw everything they had at the Bears, but the home side held on to win the game and the Kokoda Cup in front of a big crowd.
The result sees the Bears jump up to fourth spot on the ladder, while the Hunters slip from second to third.
Both sides will play in blockbusters next Sunday, with Burleigh set to face the top of the ladder Townsville Blackhawks at Pizzey Park, while the Hunters return home to take on second placed Redcliffe.
BURLEIGH BEARS 20 (Kurtis Rowe, Pat Politoni, Connor Broadhurst tries; Jamal Fogarty 4 goals) def PNG HUNTERS 18 (Oti Tony, Timothy Lomai, Justin Olam tries; Ase Boas 3 goals) at Pizzey Park.