The I Luv Coffee Burleigh Bears are one win away from the Intrust Super Cup grand final thanks to a 30-18 win over Souths Logan at Pizzey Park yesterday (August 28).
The win means the Bears finished the regular season in second place and they will now face-off against minor premiers Redcliffe in two weeks.
If they win that game, they go straight to the grand final. Defeat would mean a home preliminary final in the third week of the semis.
“It’s massive,” Lenihan said of the advantages of finishing inside the top two.
“At worst case scenario now we’re straight through to the second week of the finals and even if we lose that we’re still alive in the third week of the finals with a home game.
“I’m happy that we’ve had a hard, tough end of the year. We’ve learned how to fight. We might not be playing the prettiest (football), but we’ve certainly got a lot of attitude and we’re hanging in tough which is really positive at this time of year.”
Burleigh’s qualification for the finals ends a drought that stretches back more than a decade.
The Bears last played semi-finals football back in 2005, when they went all the way to the grand final against the now defunct North Queensland Young Guns.
Returning to finals football for the first time in 11 years is a great achievement that has the whole club buzzing.
“It’s wonderful for the club, especially for the committee, the staff; the people that work here every day,” Lenihan said.
They had to earn their grand final qualifier in an intense game against a desperate Magpies outfit.
The Magpies were sitting inside the top six coming into the game, but needed victory or a draw to qualify for the finals.
“They were always going to come here with a good attitude because they had so much to lose,” Lenihan said.
“It’s good that we kept finding ways to fight on. We picked up a few injuries and carried a few in, but we showed good character today, which was really good.”
The Bears got the jump on Souths early thanks to a length of the field effort from Jamal Fogarty.
In just the fourth minute, the Magpies were on the attack, but a kick from Leon Panapa was plucked out of the air by Fogarty, who found open space and, eventually, the try line in front of him.
Burleigh kept the pressure on in the 13th minute when a Josh Berkers offload gave Waka Wanahi just enough room to sneak over in the corner and extend the lead to 10-0.
With momentum firmly on their side, the Bears went over in the very next set, with Patty Vaivai throwing a lovely short ball to a storming Luke Page.
It was the worst possible start for the Magpies, but with their season on the line they had no choice but to pick themselves up off the canvas.
It was fullback Jamayne Isaako who got the Magpies going as he muscled his way past several Burleigh defenders to score their opening try.
However, after taking a big step forward, the Magpies took a big step back as Cam Cullen sold a dummy to the visitors defence.
He broke into the backfield and found Berkers in support who ran away to score, taking the lead out to 22-6 at the break.
The Magpies needed to score next if they were any hope of hanging on to their finals spot and they did just that through Dan Russell in the 46th minute.
That try gave them a sniff and soon they were carting the ball forward with gusto and throwing the ball around with reckless abandon.
In the 53rd minute the ball came loose close to the line, but halfback Sam Scarlett stayed alive; grubbering ahead and scoring to bring his team within a converted try.
Souths kept coming as they tried desperately to grab the lead, but the Bears steadied the ship and when Cullen opened up the defence once again in the 72nd minute, the game was wrapped up.
BURLEIGH BEARS 30 (Jamal Fogarty, Waka Wanahi, Luke Page, Joshua Berkers, Cameron Cullen tries; Jamal Fogarty 5 goals) def SOUTHS LOGAN MAGPIES 18 (Jamayne Isaako, Dan Russell, Sam Scarlett tries; Scott Doyle 3 goals) at Pizzey Park.