The Townsville Blackhawks have lost star fullback Carlin Anderson for up to four months, but his replacement Paul Byrnes came to the rescue with a controversial match-winning try against the Sunshine Coast Falcons.
Byrnes, a Townsville Brothers junior who previously tried his luck with the Brisbane Broncos Under 20s squad, scored the deciding try with three minutes left on the clock in a sensational 20-18 Intrust Super Cup result.
The high quality contest looked to have been in the keep for the Falcons, who scored first and consistently had the lead despite a tit-for-tat scoring pattern.
But last year’s grand finalists were handed the pain of their third defeat in the past six games when Byrnes pulled back an 18-16 deficit and turned it to the Blackhawks’ advantage.
Townsville was gifted the opportunity after Falcons forward Tui Kamikamica allegedly threw a punch at former teammate Joe Boyce while his team had possession.
The indiscretion saw Kamikamica pointed to the sin bin and Townsville subsequently worked their way downfield, where a wishful kick on the back of some scrappy play bounced perfectly for Byrnes.
Byrnes came into Townsville side as a replacement for the luckless Anderson, who earlier this week revealed he had torn crucial tendons in his hand.
Since winning the 2015 Intrust Super Cup with the Ipswich Jets, fan favourite Anderson has suffered a succession of injuries and illnesses that have curtailed his NRL dream.
A former state representative in five sports – rugby league, rugby union, cricket, athletics and softball – Anderson has promised to fight his way back.
Coach Kristian Woolf also told Anderson’s hometown newspaper, The Gympie Times, that the club would continue to support him.
“He is a very classy player. It won’t take him too long to get back to his best,” Woolf told the paper.
“He is very dangerous with the ball in hand.
“In time, he will run on (for the Cowboys). The Cowboys are a very strong club and the benefit of that is the development and patience with the players.”
Meanwhile Cooper Johns, the son of former Australian representative Matthew Johns and nephew of Immortal Andrew Johns, made his debut for the Sunshine Coast, taking the place of Brentt Warr.
Johns has been part of the all-conquering Victoria Thunderbolts team in the Hastings Deering Colts Under 20s competition.
In a dual shift for the Falcons halves, Rhys Jacks returned from the Toronto Wolfpack to take the place of brother Ryley, who was called into the Melbourne Storm squad this week.
Next week the Sunshine Coast hosts Ipswich on Saturday, while Townsville hosts the Norths Devils on Sunday.
TOWNSVILLE BLACKHAWKS 20 (Jaelen Feeney, Jonathon Reuben, Kalifa Faifai-Loa, Paul Byrnes tries; Zach Clay 2 goals) def SUNSHINE COAST FALCONS 18 (Jye Ballinger, Matt Soper-Lawler, Christopher Lewis tries; Joe Stimson 3 goals) at Sunshine Coast Stadium.