The I Luv Coffee Burleigh Bears and Townsville Blackhawks have played out a 28-28 draw in one of the most entertaining games likely to be played this season.
The lead changed on five separate occasions as two of the competition’s heavyweights threw everything they had at each other.
Burleigh finished the game stronger, but the Blackhawks held on and both teams walked away with a point each.
“I’m really happy we put ourselves in a position to win. Not many teams will take points away from Townsville this year, so to get a point, even though we haven’t had a win, with the way they played and the effort they put in today was really good,” Bears coach Jim Lenihan said.
“I thought the second half we were the more dominant team. The tries they scored were streaky rather than constructed, whereas we grounded out field position and gave ourselves opportunities.
“We had a couple of shots at field goal which were created from our defence forcing them to drop the ball, which Townsville doesn’t generally do.”
The Bears were immediately behind the eight-ball as they conceded five penalties inside the opening five minutes.
After one too many indiscretions, Nathaniel Peteru was sent to the bin and the Blackhawks had a terrific opportunity to strike early.
Burleigh managed to hold them out initially, but Townsville struck in the 13th minute when Hezron Murgha scored in the corner.
Boasting arguably the slickest backline in the competition, the Blackhawks put on a lovely set play in the 19th minute which was finished off by Moses Pangai to give them a 10-0 lead.
The home side needed a response and found it when Paterika Vaivai and Josh Ailaomai made their way onto the field halfway through the opening stanza.
Suddenly the Bears were on the front foot and it was Vaivai, who found himself at first receiver on the last tackle in the 28th minute, who showed footwork and finesse to set up Burleigh’s opening try to Peteru.
Moments later the Bears were in front thanks to a moment of brilliance from Jamal Fogarty.
The Bears skipper, who has made a habit of pulling tries from nowhere when his team needs it, bobbled the ball on the last, only to improvise with a grubber ahead for himself which he regathered and scored.
They kept the pressure on, but the Blackhawks charged down a kick in the 36th minute with Jonathon Reuben scoring a runaway try to give Townsville the lead going in to halftime.
A scintillating try, where Pangai and Jahrome Hughes combined with eventual try-scorer Reuben, saw the Blackhawks go 60m to extend the lead to a comfortable looking 22-12.
That sort of play has normally been the catalyst to big Blackhawk wins over the last two seasons, but the Burleigh side dug in and clawed their way back.
Jeff Lynch reached out to score in the 52nd minute, while a lovely inside ball from Ailaomai in the 58th minute allowed Waka Wanahi to score and put the Bears back in the lead.
Burleigh should have extended their lead in the 66th minute, but they dropped the ball with the line open. Townsville seized the opportunity seconds later and burst through the middle as Murgha loomed in support to score his second of the day and give Townsville the lead.
With just seven minutes remaining, try-scoring machine Kurtis Rowe surged his way to the line. The kick from out wide was waved away and scores were tied coming into the final exchanges.
Burleigh’s forwards muscled up in the middle in the dying minutes and forced some crucial turnovers, but they couldn’t capitalise with the winning play.
Townsville got one last shot at the Bears in the final minute, but Burleigh held them out and it ended in a draw.
Luke Page, who has been selected in the PNG team to play Fiji next weekend, was named man of the match after another tireless performance in the middle.
The Intrust Super Cup now goes on break for a week as the representative round takes over rugby league – including the XXXX Queensland Residents v NSW representatives match.
The result sees Townsville hold on to top spot on the ladder, while Burleigh move up to third.
BURLEIGH BEARS 28 (Nathaniel Peteru, Jamal Fogarty, Jeff Lynch, Waka Wanahi, Kurtis Rowe tries Jamal Fogarty 4 goals) drew TOWNSVILLE BLACKHAWKS 28 (Jonathon Reuben 2, Hezron Murgha 2, Moses Pangai tries Kyle Laybutt 3, Corey Jensen goals) at Pizzey Park.