In a nail-biting grand final, the Townsville Blackhawks side broke the hearts of Souths Logan Magpies to secure a 20-18 win and back-to-back state final victories in the Cyril Connell Cup last Sunday.
Down by 14 points at halftime, the game didn’t look too promising for defending champions, who were sitting on only four points while rivals Souths were on a comfortable 18 after a stellar effort in the first half of the match.
“Our boys came out a bit nervous,” coach Allan Petersen said. “In the first half we definitely weren’t at our best defensively, so we needed to ensure that we got it together for the second half.”
After some words of encouragement, the Blackhawks returned in the second half with a heightened level of determination and managed to lift their defensive efforts.
They were then able to even things up the scoreboard to see scores locked at 18-18 draw with four minutes.
However, Townsville produced the final play of the game with halfback Adam Cook kicking a penalty goal after the final siren to secure the win and maintain their title.
“After halftime, we just needed to focus, complete our set and control the game more effectively, and that’s exactly what we did,” Petersen said of the second half.
While all players put in a valiant effort, it was fullback McKenzie Baker that took home Man of the Match.
“Full credit to the boys for the job they did,” Petersen said.
“They were led by our captain [Baker] who played in the Cyril Connell Cup last year as well. His maturity and skills are just outstanding.”
Their state final win means the Blackhawks have now progressed to the national final, where they will go head-to-head with New South Wales’ Harold Matthew winners the Parramatta Eels on Sunday at Bishop Park.
With the Eels snagging a similar two-point victory in their state final over the weekend – overcoming the Newcastle Knights in a close 16-14 match in Penrith last Saturday – it could be another close one for both teams in the national final.
“Going into it, we’re just going to focus on our own game and our own processes, and just make sure we achieve our goals,” Petersen said.
Kick-off for this exciting junior final will be 11.30am at Bishop Park on Sunday.