The Romano Group Tweed Heads Seagulls finished 2017 with the extraordinary record of beating the minor premiers PNG Hunters twice – this time recording a 26-18 victory in Round 25 of the Intrust Super Cup at Piggabeen Sports Complex.
The win also meant the team – and outgoing coach Aaron Zimmerle – hoisted themselves from the bottom of the ladder to avoid the wooden spoon.
“We didn’t have a bad player, in fact we had 17 outstanding players who wouldn’t give in and somehow found a way to win,” Zimmerle said of his players after the result.
“The Hunters threw everything out us in the last 10 minutes and I couldn’t be prouder of the way we scrambled and just lifted and kept lifting to hold them out.
“These boys didn’t deserve to win the wooden spoon, so I’m grateful they didn’t.
“It’s a great way to bow out; and I’m so proud and thankful of these guys.”
While it was a disappointing season overall of the Gulls – they did manage to claim three of the biggest upsets of the season – including yesterday’s result – with a win over the Hunters in PNG and also a victory against Redcliffe on the day they celebrated the 10th anniversary of their grand final win.
After leading Northern Pride for most of the first 75 minutes the previous weekend only to concede two tries in the last 10 to lose 18-16, they kept turning up and throwing attacking shots at the Hunters until the end.
Skipper and hooker Sam Meskell opened the scoring in the ninth minute when he latched onto a break down the right side by classy five-eighth Lindon McGrady for a 6-0 lead.
Backrower Nick Harrold scored nine minutes later to give the home side a 12-0 lead after he charged onto a switch-pass from Meskell at dummy-half close to the line.
The Gulls were put in an attacking position from a brilliant 90m run from slightly built fullback Jayden Baker, a superb performer in just his third Cup appearance.
Baker made it 18-0 when he slipped over in the left corner for a converted try after two good hit-ups by prop Carne Doyle-Manga and 20-year-old Titans-contracted lock Keegan Hipgrave.
The Hunters hit back though and scored two converted tries in the last seven minutes of the first half, the first to Ase Boas who found space on the left edge from close range then Stargroth Amean who outjumped Baker brilliantly to snatch the ball on the try-line. Both were converted by Boas for an 18-12 halftime lead for the Seagulls.
The Gulls put some distance between them and their rivals when Tristan Lumley powered over from 20m out three minutes into the second half to give his side the ascendancy 24-12. A McGrady penalty goal made it 26-12 with 24 minutes left.
The Hunters cut the deficient when Wartovo Puara scored after a Seagulls error for 26-18 and from then, Tweed spent much of the remaining time digging in on their line.
Three times they scrambled brilliantly to save what looked certain tries – with Baker, Brayden McGrady and James Wood heavily involved with some key defence.
Despite the loss, the Hunters were presented with their minor premiers shield after the game and will now have a week off before hosting Redcliffe in Week 2 of the finals.