It took a match-sealing play in the dying stages of the game from Curtis Scott to help the Falcons bring down a spirited Easts Tigers side 22-14 to propel them into a blockbuster preliminary final match against Burleigh Bears next weekend.
The Tigers, who at that stage were trailing by two points, were attacking 10 metres out from the Falcons line, but good defensive pressure saw a pass go to ground, where a desperate Scott dove on the ball before tapping it to his much faster winger Nat McGavin who ran 80m down the right touchline to secure a hard-fought win for his team.
Match: Falcons v Tigers
Finals Week 2 -
Venue: Sunshine Coast Stadium, Sunshine Coast
Falcons coach Eric Smith said the play was a key one that showed his side has brought the right attitude into what they knew would be a tough game against the Tigers.
“It was a tough, gutsy win and that’s exactly what we needed after we got beat last week by Townsville,” Smith said.
“(That play showed good scramble); only a few passes before that, we threw an intercept pass and they went the length of the field and nearly scored themselves, but we were able to get back onside and get our line speed to put them under pressure so they through that pass that goes to the ground.
“That’s the kind of grit that we wanted to see today and that’s the kind of reaction we wanted after the loss last week and 80 minutes of that is what wore Easts down and kept us in the game at times and eventually got us the win."
Overall, it was a entertaining game where the Tigers actually had the better of the start of the opening half, despite the Falcons posting the first points via a penalty goal from Todd Murphy.
Easts got the first try of the match only moments later in the 18th minute when Billy Walters stepped his way out of the tackles to would-be defenders after he earned his side the ball with a scrum feed close to the line after his high kick proved too much for the Falcons backline.
Solomone Kata nailed the conversion for a 6-2 lead and what followed was an intense back and forth by both sides which was won by the Falcons in the minutes before halftime in a key play.
McGavin scored his side's first try of the game out left when the Sunshine Coast opted to run it on the fifth and swung the ball out wide to the right for the winger to stumble his way to the line.
While Murphy missed the conversion, the scores were locked at 6-6 at halftime in a game where the Tigers would have hoped to have seen more reward for their first half efforts.
The second half was as equally hard-fought and evenly matched, but again the Tigers had the early running.
This time, they were the first to score in the half thanks to a penalty goal from Kata.
They went further in front when Jack Peoples crossed in the 51st minute after some outstanding play from Walters who was one of the best on the field. He made a run through the middle, breaking tackles along the way before dummying and passing out to a trailing Peoples on the right side.
Kata kicked again and the Tigers were in the lead 14-6.
However, the Falcons didn't panic and closed the gap to two points when Chris Lewis chased through on a grubber into the in goal to set up a tense finish.
They got the lead thanks to a big play from skipper Dane Hogan who charged down a Walters kick and with a flock of Falcons following through, the pressure saw Easts knock on the ball they had managed to reach, just out from their own try line.
The Falcons made sure they used their opportunity with Siti Moceidreke crossing after some quick hands to the left to give his side a 16-14 lead.
The game remained in the balance until the key combination of Scott and McGavin which crushed the spirits of a Tigers team who had come to play.
Match: Bears v Falcons
Finals Week 3 -
Venue: Pizzey Park, Gold Coast
Next week, the Falcons will travel to Pizzey Park for their game against a rested Burleigh Bears who will be hoping to welcome some key players back from injury to face the minor premiers.