O'Neill earns praise as Townsville defeat Falcons

It was a tough battle between the Townsville Blackhawks and the Sunshine Coast Falcons at Jack Manski Oval, with the home side getting the win 22-8 during the Intrust Super Cup Indigenous Round.

Both teams struggled to get on the board early, as each side looked to establish themselves in the game.

It was to be the Sunshine Coast Falcons who found first points through a penalty kick converted by Khan Ahwang in the eighth minute.

It didn’t take long before the home side hit back, scoring the first try of the night around the 20-minute mark through winger Kalifa Faifai-Loa.

Blackhawks coach Kristian Woolf said he was pleased his side was able to get the win against a tough opposition.

“The Falcons are a really quality side, obviously they played in the grand final last year, so you definitely have to make sure you’re at your best,” Woolf said.

“They’re a tough, gritty team, who work hard, but also make you work hard to get the result you want.

“I wouldn’t say that it was the prettiest game from our blokes, it was a pretty physical and grindy game.”

After a slow start, Townville were able to find their rhythm, with five-eighth Zach Clay crossing in the 28th minute, rounding out the first half 10-2.

Maintaining their first half momentum, the Blackhawks went on to score some early second half points through winger Carlin Anderson in the 51st minute, marking a successful return from injury.

With the experience that the Falcons have, Woolf was proud that his team were able to match the physicality despite the injuries that occurred during the game.

“There were quite a few guys that stood up tonight, unfortunately, we lost two players early to injury that meant a couple of our boys had to play some extended minutes up the middle,” Woolf said.

“Rod Griffin played really big minutes in the middle which I thought was really impressive.

“Zachary Santo was another who was terrific with the ball out the back, and really helped direct our attack.”

Despite being down on players, the Blackhawks were able to keep the Falcons from crossing their line until the 74th minute, when winger Samuel Wright was over.

Blackhawks though had the final say with halfback Jaelen Feeney in for a late try in the 78th minute.

While Woolf praised his side’s overall game, but the performance of Justin O’Neill was one that stood out.

“I thought Justin O’Neill, while he didn’t have a huge impact in the sense that he didn’t score a heap of tries, still had a really quality game. He really turned up defensively which is what we need,” Woolf said.

“It’s a really hard thing for a player to come back to this level after the years of first grade experience that he’s had, it isn’t as easy as it sounds.

“To his credit, he’s come back with no ego, and out blokes like him because he turns up to training ready to go.”

Next weekend the Blackhawks face the Jets at home, a battle which Woolf said his side are looking forward too.

“The Jets had a really big win this weekend, and they’re always a tough team to beat.

“It’s a challenge that we always really enjoy, and I’m sure they’re blokes feel the same way.”

See the final team line-ups and full scoring details at QRL Live

TOWNSVILLE BLACKHAWKS 22 (Kalifa Faifai-Loa, Zach Clay, Carlin Anderson, Jaelen Feeney tries; Zach Dockar-Clay 3 goals) def SUNSHINE COAST FALCONS 8 (Samuel Wright try; Khan Ahwang 2 goals) at Jack Manski Oval.

*Emily Clooney is a QRL correspondent

Photo: File Image of the Townsville Blackhawks team