In eerily similar fashion to 2016’s corresponding game, the Wynnum Manly Seagulls walked out of Dolphin Oval with a one-point victory over the Dolphins on Saturday night.
In a defence-dominated match, the 12-12 scoreline was broken by the unlikely boot of Wynnum backrower Mitchell Frei; the captain knocking over the 30m field goal with 10 seconds remaining.
Frei, who last kicked a field goal over a decade ago in his junior football days, insisted it was a matter of circumstance that he was the man to make the play.
“It wasn’t planned” Frei said.
“(Paora) Kemp had a shot and was tackled, then (Hayden) Crowley was at dummy-half – I was the only one behind the play the ball, so I decided to call it.”
Leading up to that point, the second half had largely flowed the way of the Dolphins, with Shane Pumipi scoring from dummy-half early in the second to quickly erase the six-point halftime deficit.
Less than 10 minutes later Tom Opacic and Zach Strasser combined nicely down the right edge to score from 30m out, giving the Dolphins the lead they would hold on to for the next 24 minutes.
As the minutes passed, the Dolphins had a few opportunities to put the match to bed with possession in Wynnum territory, but the Wynnum line defence stood tall, a trend that was set in the first half.
With six minutes remaining, the Redcliffe dolphins found themselves deep in Seagull territory after strong Nathan Watts charge. Opting to back their defence, the Dolphins looked for a try on 5th tackle, unbeknownst to them that on the ensuing set the Seagulls would find a way to traverse the 99m of Dolphin Oval to find the game-tying score.
Coming off their own tryline, Wynnum broke through on the third tackle when Max Elliot sliced into the backfield off a short ball, drawing and passing to five-eight Paora Kemp to race away untouched to the sticks.
Wynnum opened the door for the Dolphins to snatch the match, however, when an error on the resulting set gave the home side a prime opportunity.
Halfback Jack Ahearn shaped to grasp the opportunity on the end of the subsequent set, but desperate pressure from last week’s hat-trick hero Salesi Funaki forced an alternative kick.
His effort would be doubled by Redcliffe, who on back-to-back sets, charged down William Brimson and Kemp field-goal attempts respectively before the Frei sealed the game.
“I was very nervous when Mitchell got the ball,” Seagulls coach Adam Brideson said.
“But we were courageous throughout, we defended and defended and didn’t have a lot of ball but they just kept turning up for each other.
“It just shows the spirit within the team and also within the club,” Brideson said.
Te Reo milestone
This was a big win for the Seagulls who were celebrating club stalwart John Te Reo’s 200th game.
“Two hundred for Wynnum means everything to me,” the Wynnum utility said.
“The boys dug in really deep; they do it for the jersey, they do it for the club and tonight they did it for me as well.
“It’s exactly why I bleed Green and Red” Te Reo said.
The round six 24-0 victory for the Dolphins allowed them to retain the Herald Cup on aggregate, their strong season continuing next week at Clermont against the Capras.
For Wynnum fans, the close victory sparked hope that finals football might still be in the equation. They travel far north to Bamaga for country round next week against Ty Williams’ Northern Pride.
WYNNUM MANLY SEAGULLS 13 (Jack Goodsell, Paora Kemp tries; Paora Kemp 2 goals, Mitchell Frei 1 field goal) def REDCLIFFE DOLPHINS 12 (Shane Pumipi, Zach Strasser tries; Tyson Gamble 2 goals) at Dolphin Oval