The Burleigh Bears unleashed a surprise weapon as they outlasted the Redcliffe Dolphins to win a brutal second round clash at Pizzey Park 25-12.
Former Origin and Test star Ben Hannant made his return to the game for the Gold Coast team in a game that added another chapter to a great rivalry.
A former Burleigh junior, Hannant – who hadn’t previously played since the 2016 NRL finals series – has been training with the Bears for the past month after deciding he wanted to make a return.
He came off the bench roughly 30 minutes into the contest and made an immediate impact with some big carries leading directly to points.
Unfortunately, the return was short-lived as he suffered a hamstring complaint and did not come back in the second half.
Bears coach Jim Lenihan said Hannant would be assessed through the week, but that he was happy with his short-lived output and hopes to see more of the man nicknamed Polar Bear in coming weeks.
“He actually looked really good for the five or six minutes he was out there,” he said. “He certainly got us forward and we scored twice in the short time he was out there.”
It was a solid if unspectacular win for the Bears which Lenihan described as “slopped and disjointed” at times, but they defended extremely well and found points when the opportunities presented themselves.
They got away to a flying start, with Kurtis Rowe slipping through the line and finding Sami Sauiluma who scored just two minutes in.
Redcliffe were next to score, as mid-way through the half former Bear and current Dolphins captain Cameron Cullen took the line on and combined with Jamil Hopoate and Moses Pangai to put Jonus Pearson over.
The Dolphins went back-to-back on the next set and again it was Cullen who instigated with a lovely grubber in behind the line.
This resulted in Pangai running around to score and giving the visitors a handy 12-4 lead.
Burleigh struck back in the 32nd minute when two big charges from Hannant created space out wide for Rowe to hit Tyrone Davis on the chest.
A shift to the right on the very next set saw Jamie Dowling put Henare Wells away who then found his brother Dallas looming in support to give Burleigh the lead at the break.
The only second half try came in the 68th minute when Pat Politoni put a kick in behind for a charging Rowe to snap up and score.
A Politoni field goal in the 74th put the game out of reach of the Dolphins who had plenty of chances, with the likes of Cullen, Hopoate and Pangai regularly asking questions of the Burleigh right edge. However, led by the returning Dowling, the Bears turned them away time and again.
“Whether he’s playing back row or centre his talk in defence is sensational,” Lenihan said of the former Gold Coast Titan.
“He organises the edge and everybody is on the same page and it’s a really good thing to have him back in the side.”
Next week will see the Bears go up against another great opponent when they take on Tweed Heads in the XXXX Rivalry Round clash. The Dolphins will also have an intense game to look forward to when they take on Wynnum Manly.
BURLEIGH BEARS 25 (Sami Sauiluma, Tyrone Davis, Dallas Wells, Kurtis Rowe tries; Jamal Fogarty 4 goals; Pat Politoni field goal) def REDCLIFFE DOLPHINS 12 (Jonus Pearson, Moses Pangai tries; Manaia Rudolph 2 goals) at Pizzey Park.
*Kevin Braysher is a QRL correspondent covering the Burleigh Bears.