The Essential Coffee Burleigh Bears claimed their second win of 2017, defeating the Blackhawks 20-18 in Townsville yesterday.
Facing one of the toughest road trips in the competition, with Parahi Wilson suffering from illness and Dylan Kelly going down with injury in the first half, it was another day where the Bears had an excuse to not perform, but instead they toughed it out and got the job done.
A Darren Griffiths try gave them a handy eight-point buffer after halftime, before the Bears were forced to withstand a Townsville fightback and hold on to a vital win.
“It was a tough game. We were a bit down and out on troops, but we managed to come away with a really resilient win,” Bears coach Jim Lenihan said.
“Parahi Wilson got sick as we got there and he probably wasn’t going to play at all during the game, but then Dylan Kelly started the game at lock and came off with a head injury five minutes before halftime, so we had to throw him on for 20 minutes or so.
“I think we went into the game knowing that we really needed to step up. I don’t even think winning and losing was part of our thinking, it was about making sure our blokes really dug in for each other so that we didn’t get embarrassed by Townsville, up there.
“We took some shots early and got some points, and we defended really well and forced them into a few errors. I think as the game went on we grew in confidence.
“Everyone needed to step up to the plate because we needed a full team performance and we got that, which was pleasing because now we can start believing again that we can do good things against good sides.”
The Bears opened scoring in the 10th minute, when a Matt White offload set up Kurtis Rowe for 6-0.
Jonathon Reuben brought the scores level after he snatched an intercept in the 19th minute and ran the length of the field to score for the Blackhawks.
Townsville took their first lead in the 23rd minute through a Carlin Anderson try, but the Bears drew level again five minutes later when Keanu Te Kiri linked up with Jamie Dowling on the left.
A Te Kiri penalty goal in the 38th minute was all that split them at the break, with the scores 14-12 at halftime.
When Griffiths went over in the 45th minute, the Bears had the biggest lead of the day and they were determined to hold on to it.
The Blackhawks came hard in the second half and scored through Oshae Tuiasau in the 67th minute, but the Bears dug in defensively and held on to a crucial away win.
Lenihan praised what he called a “whole team effort”, and was happy to see his young playmakers produce another promising performance.
It was the first time all season the Bears have been able to field the same spine (fullback, halves and hooker) in consecutive weeks, and combinations are starting to take shape.
Te Kiri had a try assist and was again perfect with the boot slotting four goals (taking his tally to 13/13 since joining the team in Round 4), while Daniel Schwass, Chris Law and Sam Grant all played an important role in guiding the team to victory.
“I think they’re getting more confident in their place in the team every week and they helped steer the team around and get us to our kicks when we needed it. From there we just had to defend well as a group,” Lenihan said.
Lenihan also praised the work of co-captains Luke Page and Jamie Dowling along with Matt White; all of whom were invaluable in the middle of the field.
Next weekend, the Bears are at home to the Hunters in a big Anzac weekend clash, while Townsville will have the chance to atone at home when they host Tweed Heads.
BURLEIGH BEARS 20 (Kurtis Rowe, Jamie Dowling, Darren Griffiths tries; Keanu Te Kiri 4 goals) def TOWNSVILLE BLACKHAWKS 18 (Jonathon Reuben, Carlin Anderson, Oshae Tuiasau tries; Carlin Anderson 3 goals) at Jack Manski Oval.