It was an end-to-end affair from the outset; but Palm Beach Currumbin SHS were able to withstand a fightback from Kirwan SHS to claim this year’s NRL Schoolboys Cup Queensland final 32-26.
Presented the Phil Hall Cup by the man himself at the end of the match; it was anyone’s to win right up to the end of the game; with the Bears not giving up in an entertaining showpiece played at Suzuki Stadium, Langlands Park.
However, both sides took their time to settle into a rhythm in the match, with penalties an early feature.
Another feature was some exciting play down the sidelines; with breaks by the backs chased down with commendable desperation.
A penalty saw Kirwan move into attacking position and they used it. Some clever work at the line from hooker Adrian Trevilyan, where he produced a big dummy to the right to catch out defenders, was rewarded when he was able to throw his outstretched arm in front of him to smash the ball down for a try which was converted by Dylan White.
However, PBC hit straight back after some good work from their backs inter-playing to bring ball in to through the middle. They shifted the ball out right via former Queensland Under 16 representative centre Will Evans who put on a massive fend to push off defenders before running down the right sideline to score.
Tweed Heads Seagulls Mal Meninga Cup player Toby Sexton was successful with the sideline conversion and locked scores up at 6-6.
The two sides went try-for-try again to end the half; with a short-side play on the fifth tackle taking Palm Beach by surprise as winger Daniel Rigano ran through to score for Kirwan.
Things were levelled up at 12-12 at the break after a clever kick through from PBC halfback and Player of the Match Tom Dearden produced the perfect bounce back into the waiting arms of a chasing Jed Edwards who scored.
Palm Beach could not have asked for a better start to the second half, after dangerously letting a ball bounce from a kick-off, their big second rower Juwan Compain was in the right place to jump up to take the ball and he ran downfield to get their set to a great start.
A few plays later; they were over out to the left of the uprights after Noah Gafa made his way over.
As they had all match; Kirwan responded quickly when five-eighth crossed; thanks mostly to some good lead-up work from centre Zinzaan Martin who made a crucial break.
This time, the conversion attempt was waved away and the Gold Coast team had an 18-16 advantage with 24 minutes to go.
They were not able to build on that momentum; with Palm Beach applying the pressure to put the Bears on back foot. Their hard work paid off when PBC earned themselves a scrum after a Kirwan fumble and they capitalised with a second try to Gafa which was the result of some crisp passing in the lead-up between Dearden and Evans to find the centre.
With the Reds on the attack, Evans got his second try; this time by running hard to plant the ball down under the posts to give his side their biggest lead of the game after another successful conversion from Sexton 28-16 with 10 minutes left to play.
But again, Kirwan were not done with yet and caused the stomachs of the Palm Beach to churn when they scored two quick tries; the first to hardworking prop Malachi Retchford and another – a second to Rigano – only moments later to see the scores narrow to 28-26 with just over three minutes remaining.
While vocal Kirwan supporters did their best to try and will their side on; the difficult conversion attempt from the far left of the field did not make the distance.
Although this would have been a fitting scoreline to end a great and hard-fought match; Palm Beach Currumbin had one more trick up their sleeve and a kick through the line by Sexton was pounced upon by a flying Ryan Garner, with the winger coming from seemingly nowhere to touch the ball down.
After the match; both captains thanked their teams, supporters and coaching staff for the experience they had had during the season.
Palm Beach Currumbin will next week meet Patrician Brothers in the National Final at Dolphin Stadium on Wednesday, September 19.
Palm Beach Currumbin SHS 32 (Noah Gafa 2, Will Evans 2, Jed Edwards, Ryan Garner tries; Toby Sexton 4 goals) defeated Kirwan SHS 26 (Daniel Rigano 2, Adrian Trevilyan, Dylan White, Malachi Retchford tries; Dylan White 3 goals) at Suzuki Stadium, Langlands Park
Player of the Match: Tom Dearden (Palm Beach Currumbin)