Brighton Roosters made hard work in beating a plucky Carina Juniors 34-20 in the Premier grade division at Leo Williams Oval, on a day the produced sweltering conditions for the players.
Even without three top-line players, the Roosters still did enough to overcome a spirited Tigers side that had the Roosters on the ropes in the first half.
From a purist point of view, it was not the prettiest game to watch, with the match riddled with errors by both sides, but it still managed to keep you enthralled all the same.
Defensively however, the Roosters were simply men on a mission as they laid claim to being one of the surprise packets of the season with their never say die attitude.
Jamie Maliko produced two of the biggest hits of the season which had obviously landed him a spot in the Brisbane Representative side this weekend as his defence was simply brutal.
After enduring a torrid opening five minutes from the surging Roosters, the Tigers finally succumbed to the pressure on their own line when Roosters five-eighth Gavin Causer produced a magic pass to send in powerful centre Kainga Turner in to score.
Turner’s superb sideline conversion saw the Roosters take an early 6-0 lead in the extremely humid conditions.
Carina’s halves pairing of Michael Gunthorpe and David Browne were causing headaches for the Roosters and it would be halfback Gunthorpe whose brilliant cut-out pass found centre Mava Lagaaia who crashed in to score on the grandstand side of the field.
Browne’s left foot bullet like shot at goal was precise, as the ball sailed straight over the black dot.
The next try was going to be decisive, as Gunthorpe again produced a pinpoint pass that found winger Charles Sinipati who used his bulk to cross outwide.
Browne again with his trusty left boot produced another howler from the sideline to see the home side in front at 12-6.
A dropped ball inside the Tigers half from the restart saw the Roosters in good field position to level the scores before the halftime break and some quick thinking out of dummy half by fullback William Bern saw him sneak in to put the Roosters back in the game.
A missed conversion by Turner right on halftime saw the Tigers go into the break leading 12-10 and possibly an upset looming.
After the well-earned break from the energy sapping conditions, the Roosters ensured they were not here to be beaten and a clever grubber through by Brisbane Representative player Junior Crawford found hooker Cody Tupara who made no mistake going in beside the posts.
Crawford again would toy with the Carina defence as this time he magically threw an inside ball to find winger Jackson Clarke who cut through the clutches of the Tigers defence to score a neat try.
Still, Carina had enough petrol in the tank as the superb general play kicking by Browne was turning the big Roosters pack around all game and making some good field position of their own.
This would see the home side go in again through powerful prop Jude Kamano who was unstoppable at close range to go in under the sticks.
At 22-16 it was still anybody’s game. Carina coach Lane Bird looked a pleased man from the dugout as the Tigers with their underdog spirit, would not lie down and go away.
Tino Vaasa, Kamano and Browne were fighting with everything they had to ensure the Tigers stayed in tune with the high flying Roosters, however a lapse in concentration on their own goal line saw Roosters replacement player Henry Togasiua stroll in for the easiest of tries to see the Roosters increase their lead to 28-16.
The humid conditions made the ball feel like a cake of soap and in the blink of an eye, the Roosters lost the pill on their own 10m line that saw Carina’s best player on the park Browne scoop up the ball and lunge over to score a great try right in front of the can bar.
At 28-20, this game was going to go down to the wire, but again some fundamental errors by Carina saw Roosters Turner score his second try of the afternoon to ensure the Roosters remained with the leaders on the ladder with a hard fought 34-20 win.
Brighton coach Nathan Hughes was relived but disappointed as his side could not get out of second gear.
“A win’s a win, but we need to have a look at ourselves if we want to stay in the top three.”
“Our focus is the Ted Beaumont trophy in the short-term, so we are still on track with what we set out to do at the start of the season.”
Final Score Brighton Roosters 34 Carina Juniors 20.