Top eight teams Townsville Blackhawks and Easts Tigers both came out firing at Langlands Park this afternoon for the last round of the Intrust Super Cup season.
The Tigers were unable to get the home win for retiring players Jake Foster, on the sideline with a knee injury, Shane Neumann, playing his 200th game, and Jarrod McInally, with the Blackhawks winning 22-20.
Shane Neumann highlights in celebration of his 200th game
Blackhawks coach Aaron Payne said his team was lucky to get the win after a far from clinical performance; he said the close encounter was "a wake up call leading into finals".
Payne said he believed excitement about finals led to complacency.
"It's the ultimate mistake as a group, thinking about next week," Payne said.
"There was some real uncharacteristic things that happened that I haven’t seen for a long time, but the positive today was we found a way to win when we were under pressure.
"Full credit to the Tigers, they really turned up. They had a lot to play for. They were wanting to send some really important people, who have been part of their club for a long time, out the right way here at home."
Blackhawks captain Shaun Nona said "it was a bit rusty on our end… we didn’t play our best, but we still came away with the result, so that’s pleasing".
“I thought our five-eighth Jaelen Feeney was really good today. Him and our right edge really controlled our kicking and our kick chase. I think they led the way for us today," Nona said.
“I think it’s good to get the win going into finals. We won last week as well, so having two wins leading up to finals is a huge boost for our morale."
Blackhawks wrecking ball Tom Gilbert, who scored one of the Blackhawks' four tries, said it was a "tough contest" - one he was very happy to win.
"We knew Easts were playing for a bit today... we were prepared and they gave us everything. We stayed tough, stayed resilient and gave an 80-minute performance, which is what we’ve been working for," Gilbert said.
"I think we’ve still got some work, unfortunately, to do, but we can do that."
Match: Tigers v Blackhawks
Round 23 -
Venue: Langlands Park, Brisbane
Tigers coach Scott Sipple said despite the result, "it was a good game of footy - two good sides competing and unfortunately we dropped the ball at the end and they snatched it".
"We got some things out of it that we want to work on for the finals," Sipple said
"I thought it was a good team effort. Our defence has got to be better and I thought it was today.
"We’ve been building for the last three weeks for semi finals. I know we haven’t got the results, but it’s about next week. A new comp starts next week and we’re in it. And seven other sides aren’t. We’ll go to Norths I think and game on."
Sipple said he was impressed with debutant Jack Peoples, who scored two of the Tigers' four tries.
"He's been knocking on the door all year... he didn’t look out of place. He didn’t meet Billy Walters until today and you couldn't tell," Sipple said.
"It would’ve been good to get the result today but we’re building for next week’s competition. We’ve got a bit of confidence now. I wouldn’t want to be playing us."
Sipple thanked Foster, Neumann and McInally for being such "great club men" over the years and wished them all well in retirement.
The game, which saw players and officials wear blue socks for the Turn to Me round, was fiery from the outset, with the Blackhawks' Jaelen Feeney crossing the line first and Nona converting to take the Blackhawks to a 6-0 lead.
Tigers debutant Peoples scored in the 29th minute and Walters missed the conversion. The score sat at 6-4.
The Blackhawks’ Temone Power was next to cross in the 38th minute and Nona converted to take the half time score to 10-4 to the Blackhawks.
Dan Beasley, off the bench for the Blackhawks, was first to score after the break, crossing under the posts and Nona made it three from three conversions to take the score to 16-4.
But Easts did not take the foot off the pedal and Walters crossed in the 51st minute; Sam Foster failed to convert and the score sat at 16-8.
Peoples scored his second try in the 65th minute and Foster converted, closing the gap to 16-14. Tigers' Sam Lavea then crossed in the 69th minute to claim the lead for the Tigers and Foster converted to take the score to 20-16 to the Tigers.
Gilbert then scored for the Blackhawks to even the score and Nona converted to take the score to 22-20. The Blackhawks were victorious.