Moreton Bay Pride supporters would be grateful that Josh Smith saved his best game of the season for a day that mattered.
A rousing 22-6 win over Brighton Roosters in the Open 3 Northside Preliminary final played at Suzuki Stadium was enough to secure the Pride a grand final berth against Fortitude Valley in a mouth-watering showdown in next week’s grand final.
Captain/coach Smith’s Pride side were far from fluent, however the sheer defensive work the players in pink got through against the Roosters was phenomenal.
It was Smith’s two barnstorming tries that ensured the Pride were guaranteed a grand final berth.
While it was a gallant effort by the Pride to come from fourth spot to knock minor premiers Brighton out of the finals; the Roosters also did not play as poorly as the scoreline might reflect.
Roosters Lock Anthony Brown, hooker Daniel White, halfback Ben Webb and fullback Andrew Rickertt were outstanding in a losing side.
Brown in particular, put his body on the line for the Roosters on numerous occasions and his defence was near perfect against the much larger Pride pack.
The Pride on a mission, went in again with a rampaging Smith carrying five Roosters players over the tryline to plant the ball down over the tryline.
At 12-0, the warning signs were ominous for the Roosters. Brighton captain White tried to rally his troops with some superb dummy half running, but the Roosters were being out muscled by the likes of Smith, Michael Siologa and Michael Hogan.
Brighton started to look like a side that had forgotten to score tries. The Pride were there in their numbers to stop proceedings on three occasions that Brighton seemed set to score.
On the stroke of halftime, Brighton looked certain score their first points, but a fantastic covering tackle by Pride’s Maloney foiled the Roosters attack and bundled winger Bronson Blakemore into touch.
With only three minutes on the clock in the second half, it would be Smith again replicating his first try with another wrecking ball run that saw the man mountain to go in for his second of the afternoon.
With fullback Jacob Aiono landing a beautiful conversion, the Pride were seemingly on a roll to upset a Brighton side that were the benchmark all season.
Smith’s father Greg, at the age of 54 and probably the oldest player in the Brisbane Second Division, was given a standing ovation for nearly playing the entire game in the front row.
The warhorse prop showed up many of the younger players with his no-nonsense toughness and will see him go down in BSDRL folklore as one of the hardest players to don a rugby league jersey.
A fine piece of individual brilliance by Roosters halfback Webb finally saw Brighton on the board with seven minutes remaining. A beautiful in-and-away and step off the right foot saw the playmaking half sneak in beside the posts to finally give the Roosters supporters something to crow about.
Aaron Kelly made no mistake with the goal to see the Pride lead 18-6.
But the Pride would get the last say in this game and set up what will be a thrilling grand final.
Explosive centre Shannon Sankey burst down the sideline in a show of strength to find an unmarked Leathern Whyte who fist pumped his way to the tryline to see the Pride snatching a gutsy win for the Bayside club.
Final Score: Moreton Bay Pride 22 Brighton Roosters 6.