The Ben Campbell Building Group Tweed Heads Seagulls are just two points out of the top six approaching the halfway mark of the season, after making it five straight wins with a 28-22 victory against Northern Pride at Piggabeen Sports Complex.
The Seagulls ran in five first-half tries to lead 28-12 at the break; but made hard work of the second session – dropping too much ball and conceding too many penalties to invite the Pride to camp themselves in the Seagulls’ half.
Pride coach Ty Williams would have been disappointed his side did not take advantage of the big possession and territory swing in the second 40 minutes, but much of that was due to desperate defence on the Seagulls’ try-line, led by workaholic skipper Cheyne Whitelaw.
“It was game of two halves for us, but the effort in defence when we gave them a lot of ball in our end was pretty pleasing,” Seagulls coach Ben Woolf said.
“We had a bit of ball in the first half and controlled that possession well. And went down their end we had enough class to strike.
“In the second half we frustrated ourselves, trying too hard to get quick play the balls, and we put ourselves under pressure.
“But we showed a lot of resilience late and had to defend our line for long periods. While I would have preferred less errors, we showed a lot of character to keep them out until the 70th minute.”
Three tries were scored in the first 10 mins: Tweed’s Titans-contracted prop Leilani Latu crossing on right edge from close range, the Pride responding in similar fashion through Nathan Wales.
Then, the Seagulls pulled off their signature play of Lindon McGrady grubber kicking for Brayden McGrady who pounced on the ball in-goal, snaring his 12th try of the season and giving the Seagulls a 12-6 lead.
The rest of the half was pretty much owned by the Seagulls. Halfback Kane Elgey got lucky with an awful grubber being smothered by the feet of a Pride defender only to rebound at Elgey’s feet in-goal for him to place a hand on it and take the lead to 18-6 with Lindon McGrady’s conversion.
Another Titans squad member, right winger Kiah Cooper, showed good footwork and strength to score out wide to take the score to 22-6 after just 27 minutes.
The Pride were back in the game five minutes later when they gained possession through a drop ball by Gulls forward Maia Sands and Troy Kapea stormed over in the resulting set of six, making it 22-12.
Soon after they looked set to score again, but a magnificent scrambling try-saving tackle by Konrad Hurrell on the try-line saved the moment for the Seagulls, typifying their desperate defence on their line in the last 50 minutes of the game.
Right on the stroke of half-time, lightweight Tweed Heads interchange forward Jack Cook (who shared players player honours with his skipper after the match) made it three Gulls’ tries from grubbers when he picked up the scraps after the Pride failed to clean up a kick from dummy half Eli Levido, who was impressive in his first game as starting hooker.
Both teams settled in for a dour arm wrestle after coming back from the sheds, with regular errors and penalties slowing the flow of the match.
It was the 70th minute before the Pride took advantage of their big flow of possession when right winger Murray Tualagi scored from an overlap created by a quick shift to the right.
They followed with a consolation try in the final 30 seconds through Tom Hancock, converted by Jake Clifford.
TWEED HEADS SEAGULLS 28 (Leilani Latu, Brayden McGrady, Kane Elgey, Kiah Cooper, Jack Cook tries; Lindon McGrady 4 goals) def NORTHERN PRIDE 22 (Nathan Wales, Troy Kapea, Murray Taulagi, Tom Hancock tries; Jake Clifford 3 goals) at Piggabeen Sports Complex.