Townsville Blackhawks came out firing against minor premiers Sunshine Coast Falcons and didn't let up to claim the 20-12 victory at Sunshine Coast Stadium this afternoon, earning themselves one week off.
Match: Falcons v Blackhawks
Finals Week 1 -
Venue: Sunshine Coast Stadium, Sunshine Coast
After drawing with the Ipswich Jets in the final round of Intrust Super Cup, the Falcons welcomed back a host of stars in week one of the finals, with Harry Grant, Todd Murphy, Tino Faasuamaleaui and Chris Lewis all taking to the field.
However, the home side were still without talented trio Nicho Hynes, Joe Stimson, and Jon Reuben.
The Blackhawks started the match well, looking sharp early and coming up with a try in their first attacking set of the match.
Fullback Nathan Traill showed incredible speed to beat a swarm of Falcons to a grubber kick and grounded it in the in-goal for the first points of the final. Shaun Nona failed to kick the conversion and the score was 4-0 to the visitors after two minutes.
The minor premiers started the match in quite opposite fashion, following up their opposition’s try with a mistake, kicking the ball out of the full and handing the Blackhawks the ball at the halfway line.
Despite looking certain to score on a few occasions early in the first half, the Falcons weren’t able to finish with points. The home side’s completion rate became a recurring issue with a raft of unforced errors preventing the Falcons from gaining a foothold in the match.
The Blackhawks scored their second try halfway through the first half after Nathan Barrett found himself on the end of a backline movement with some work to do.
Barrett beat Curtis Scott on his way to score. Nona again missed the conversion and the score was 8-0 after 19 minutes.
Tino Faasuamaleaui made his presence known after coming off the bench, breaking through the Blackhawks line and taking the Falcons downfield to within attacking distance. The Falcons made the most of the break as Cooper Johns sent a cut-out pass wide to Chris Lewis.
Lewis looked right at home in the centres, as he ran through several Blackhawks to place the ball down closer to the posts, improving the conversion chances for Todd Murphy. Murphy slotted the conversion and despite being a try down the home side were back within two points, 8-6, after 25 minutes.
There was a collective gasp from the home crowd gathered at Sunshine Coast Stadium as the Blackhawks were awarded a penalty try in the 33rd minute. The referee decided the Falcons interfered with Jaelen Feeney on his way to the try line. Nona converted and the Blackhawks extended their lead to 14-6 with just five minutes left to play in the first half.
The Falcons went on one final attacking raid before the half time break, but it ended in a knock on just before the siren and the Blackhawks took their lead into the break.
The Blackhawks were unable to repeat their impressive first half start at the beginning of the second stanza, knocking the ball on 30 metres out and handing possession to the Falcons.
The home side put together a classy set that finished with Dane Hogan driving his way to the line before reaching out to ground the ball. However, the Falcons captain was denied points after the referee ruled a forward pass had taken place in the lead up to Hogan grounding the ball.
The Falcons were again denied a try in the 48th minute as Scott dropped the ball over the line in the process of scoring.
The Blackhawks followed up with a no-try of their own at the opposite end of the field as a forward pass was ruled in the lead up to the visitor’s attempt to score in the corner.
It took several repeat sets, but the Falcons finally cracked Townsville’s staunch goal line defence in the 59th minute. Hooker Grant delivered a pass over the top to Nat McGavin who scored in the corner. Murphy nailed the conversion and the home side were back within two points at 14-12 with just over 18 minutes left to play.
The Blackhawks were the next side to score as a flying Zac Santo broke through the line and ran 70 meters before passing the ball back inside to Feeney to score against the run of play in the 67th minute.
Nona was successful with the conversion which extended the visitor’s lead to 20-12 with just 10 minutes left in the match.
There was an injury scare for the Falcons with Lewis being taken from the field with what looked to be a shoulder injury. Lewis reeled out of an attempted tackle immediately clutching his shoulder and signalling to the bench in the 73rd minute.
Despite continuing to work hard in an attempt to chase down the Blackhawks' lead, the Falcons were unable to put any more points on the scoreboard in the closing stages of the second half.
With a significant changeover in personnel from the previous week, the Falcons appeared to struggle to find their rhythm in both attack and defence throughout the match.
In contrast, the Blackhawks looked confident from the outset, consistently finding themselves in space on the back of enthusiastic defence and the leadership of Josh Chudleigh and Feeney.
The Townsville side earned themselves a week off with the win over the minor premiers, whilst the Falcons will be back at Sunshine Coast Stadium next Sunday in a sudden death match-up against the East Tigers.