Northern Pride came back from an 18-point deficit to defeat the I Luv Coffee Burleigh Bears 25-24 at Pizzey Park yesterday.
Burleigh’s run of seven-straight wins came to an end at the hands of a desperate Pride who were fighting to stay in the race for the semi-finals.
Despite the loss, Burleigh will hold onto top spot for at least another week, while the Pride stay alive on 20-points with four rounds left to play.
While disappointed to suffer their first loss since the end of May, Bears coach Jim Lenihan said his team could learn important lessons from the loss as the end of the regular season fast approaches.
“We’ve got to be able to ice a game better at the end,” he said. “Straight after halftime we got out to 24-6 and then we struggled and went through a patch where we made a lot of errors and gave them a lot of opportunities.
“That’s going to happen sometimes, but we’ve got to learn to defend our errors better.
“Whether the loss was a good thing for us or not; it’s not a bad thing to get off a seven game winning streak because at some point it’s going to stop, and the damage right now wasn’t all that massive.
“Hopefully we can take some lessons out of it and take it into the game against PNG next week.”
Burleigh started the game with a bang as Jamal Fogarty broke the line in just the fourth minute. In support was Hayden Schwass who crossed for the opening try.
The Bears went back-to-back as Kurtis Rowe scored in the left corner in the eighth minute.
The Pride hit back in the 22nd minute, when former Bears junior Shaun Hudson flick passed to Luke George, who sprinted down the wing and put a kick back inside. Hudson was on the spot to score an exciting opening try for the visitors.
Burleigh regained control, however, in the 28th minute when Connor Broadhurst made a break on the right side of the field. Fogarty loomed in support to grab Burleigh’s third of the day.
Fogarty had kicked 20 consecutive goals leading into the game, but he uncharacteristically missed the first three attempts at goal, meaning the lead was only 12-6 despite scoring three tries to one.
Some lovely sleight-of-hand from big Josh Ailaomai set up a try for fellow prop Patty Vaivai in the 35th minute, giving the Bears a 12-point lead at the break.
The Bears kept the roll going straight after the break as Josh Ailaomai charged over to score Burleigh’s fifth try of the day.
The Pride, though, were fighting for their season, and slowly but surely started to claw their way back.
A try to Coen Hess got them back to 24-12, while a try out of dummy half from Colin Wilkie got them within a converted try.
Hudson and George combined once again in the 68th minute to produce a try in the corner, giving former Bear Khan Ahwang a chance to level the scores from the sideline.
Ahwang delivered under the pressure and put the ball over the black dot to create a pulsating final 10 minutes.
The Pride missed a shot at field goal with six minutes remaining and Burleigh worked their way down the other end.
It looked like Sami Sauiluma had scored the match-winner for Burleigh, but the touch judge’s flag was up and the try was disallowed.
A crucial penalty in the following set gave the Pride the field position they needed and Jordan Bioni-odo made no mistake in kicking the match-winning field goal.
It was a bittersweet end to what was a fantastic day for the Bears as a club who celebrated Old Boys Day.
A huge crowd turned out on a beautiful Saturday afternoon with a focus on premiership winning teams from 1976, 1986 and 2006.
NORTHERN PRIDE 25 (Shaun Hudson, Coen Hess, Colin Wilkie, Luke George tries; Khan Ahwang 4 goals; Jordan Biondi-Odo field goal) def BURLEIGH BEARS 24 (Hayden Schwass, Kurtis Rowe, Jamal Fogarty, Jeff Lynch, Josh Ailaomai tries; Jamal Fogarty 2 goals) at Pizzey Park.