A committed 80-minute defensive effort against a typically physical, relentless PNG Hunters has given the Tweed Heads Seagulls a great platform for an improved season.
The Seagulls kept an opposing side scoreless for the first time in many seasons, snuffing out a 10-0 victory in 32-degree heat at Piggabeen Sports Complex on Sunday.
Each team had one genuine chance – both in the final seven minutes of the scoreless first.
Hunters five-eighth Charlie Simon kicked through and winger Gairo Kapana was first to the ball in the in-goal, but was ruled offside.
Soon after, Titans young-gun Treymain Spry showed good footwork to break the line from 10 metres, but lost the ball as he stretched out for the whitewash.
It took 54 minutes for fans to notice the Piggabeen scoreboard was out of order and those first points came after an obvious turning point that typified the Gulls’ effort.
Match: Seagulls v Hunters
Round 1 -
Venue: Piggabeen Sports Complex, Tweed Heads
They defended three successive sets on their own line before Titans-contracted Ryley Jacks relieved the pressure with a clearing kick on the fourth tackle.
Tweed Heads then put in an aggressive set in defence, pressuring Hunters half William Mone’s kick and causing an error around halfway.
From the ensuing possession, Tweed came up with a try in the left corner to winger Ryland Jacobs after Jacks ran the ball on the last and fullback Talor Walters and left centre Lamar Liolevave worked well to give Jacobs enough space to squeeze over the line.
Lindon McGrady’s conversion from the touchline made it 6-0 and the only other score came 10 minutes later when Jacks crossed from short range after a good step to the outside and offload from second-rower Kalani Going.
It was the defensive attitude of the Seagulls, who made 356 tackles (56 more than their opponents) and missed only 20, that impressed coach Ben Woolf.
However, both teams were poor with the ball at the ‘money end’ of the field, coughing up possession too frequently as they ran set moves near the tryline.
The Hunters missed the familiarity and dominance in the halves that had been for so long provided by brothers Ase Boas and Watson Boas, who are playing for Featherstone Rovers in England, and looked every bit the team that has lost half their regular line-up from last season.
And Tweed Heads had big signing Christian Hazard watching from the sidelines (out with an elbow injury until Round 4) and the benefit of only one training session with playmaker Jacks on board.
“They really dug in and showed some toughness,” Tweed Heads coach Ben Woolf told Seagulls Media.
“We had a lot of possession go against us and a lot of repeat sets, but we really dug in on our line and got the job done.
“Having Ryley Jacks only come in [to training] late in the week makes it difficult for him to get to know how we want to what we want to do.
“We defended our line really well and then came up with good yardage sets which was a good reflection on their commitment and attitude.
“We have to be a lot more disciplined, we made far too many errors in the first half and when we needed to close out our sets late in the game. But the fact we could hang in and win tough was a positive way to start the season.”
Newcomer John Palavi was strong up front for Tweed and showed what value his experience will be, particularly with skipper Cheyne Whitelaw missing for the first month of the season.
Lock Kirk Murphy was outstanding in defence – particularly as both teams strived for the upper-hand in physicality in the first half-hour – and PNG’s big man Dilbert Isaac proved a handful for the Seagulls defence with his strong running.
It was a positive start to 2019 for the Seagulls with the Mal Meninga Cup and Deering Hastings Colts team giving the club triple victories. The Under 18 Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup beat Western Mustangs 58-18 while the Under 20 Hastings Deering Colts Colts beat the Mustangs 18-14.