The I Luv Coffee Burleigh Bears’ run of wins away from home ended, 32-14, at the hands of Redcliffe at Dolphin Oval yesterday (May 29).
The Bears were unbeaten in four straight matches and had won five in a row away from home coming into the top-of-the-table clash, but the brakes came on as the Dolphins farewelled prop Tyson Andrews, whose immediate retirement was announced, with an inspired display.
The Dolphins were effective in slowing down Burleigh’s big forwards at the play-the-ball, while the Bears produced errors at crucial times, which stalled their momentum.
Bears coach Jim Lenihan was upbeat after the game and looking at the bigger picture.
“No one is going to win every game, every week and it’s a situation where we need to learn to deal with pressure at moments of the game,” he said.
“I thought in that first 20 minutes we were just as good as Redcliffe but I think coming up against the better teams like Redcliffe we’ve got to learn to compete at a higher level for longer.
“I think we were forced into too many errors throughout the game. We were good for patches and then we’d make errors and put ourselves under pressure. We put ourselves in a position to win it at certain times but we hurt ourselves.
“We might have been able to get away with it in games against sides that aren’t as good as Redcliffe but Redcliffe is clearly going to be a top-four side this year.”
The Dolphins made their intentions known early on when Anthony Cherrington produced a nice offload to set up the opening try for Darren Nichols.
Burleigh were behind the eight ball but managed to claw back momentum in the minutes that followed.
They were rewarded in the 21st minute when Jamie Dowling threw a lovely short ball to Kurtis Rowe out the back who then passed to Waka Wanahi who dived over and scored in the corner.
That brought the Bears back to within two points but it was short-lived as Jack Ahearn hit a hole and dived over five minutes later.
In the 31st minute the lead was stretched to 16-4 when Curtis Johnson won the contest for a Nichols bomb, then offloaded to Daniel Randall who gave it to Ahearn to score his second.
Redcliffe finished the half strongly and took that 12-point lead in to the break.
Burleigh needed to score first in the second half to stay in touch and they did that when Jamal Fogarty played short to a charging Eddy Pettybourne.
Their momentum was again halted shortly after, however, as another Nichols bomb was put down by the Bears, only for Jonus Pearson to swoop and score under the posts.
It was compounded in the 60th minute when Aaron Whitchurch burst through the frontline and found Christian Hazard in support, who then kicked ahead for Curtis Johnson to score and blow the lead out to 20.
Patty Vaivai muscled his way over the line to give the Bears one last hope in the 67th minute, but it was snuffed out when Zach Strasser went left with a beautiful cut-out ball to Johnson for his second, taking the final score to 32-14.
Having not played at home since their May 1 win over PNG, the Bears will be relishing the chance to return to Pizzey Park on Sunday when they host the Easts Tigers from 2pm.
The Tigers sit alongside Burleigh in equal second on the competition ladder and will be another good test to see how well the Bears are travelling mid-way through the season.
“It will absolutely be good to be back home and it’s another big game against Easts, too,” Lenihan said.
“For us to improve as a football team these are the games where we need to not worry so much about the outcome, but keep making sure our performances are getting better and heading in the direction we want it to.”
REDCLIFFE DOLPHINS 32 (Jack Ahearn 2, Curtis Johnston 2, Darren Nicholls, Jonus Pearson tries; Darren Nicholls 4 goals) def BURLEIGH BEARS 14 (Waka Wanahi, Eddy Pettybourne, Pateriks Vaivai tries; Jamal Fogarty goal) at Dolphin Oval.