Debutant Benn Campagnolo became an instant hero in Townsville, scoring the match-winning try in the 78th minute for the Blackhawks to provide a much needed 24-18 victory over the Mackay Cutters on Sunday afternoon.
Match: Blackhawks v Cutters
Round 7 -
Venue: Jack Manski Oval, Townsville
With the home side reduced to 12 men after Jaelen Feeney was sent off with five minutes to go, Campagnolo latched on to a Carlin Anderson pass to score in the corner, sending the big crowd into raptures.
It was a pulsating North Queensland derby that had everything; great attacking football, desperate defence and a whole lot of passion.
The Blackhawks got off to a dream start after an error from the Cutters from the kick-off. Kalifa Faifai-Loa scored in the second minute following some quick hands and a sublime pass from Bacho Salam.
After dominating early territory, Townsville conceded a try against the run of play in the 10th minute, when Josh Smith picked up a loose ball and ran 90 metres for a try.
Campagnolo tried in vain to prevent the try, but forced Smith to score out wide, resulting in a missed conversion and keeping the scores level at 4-4.
A pinpoint kick from Cutters half Ata Hingano resulted in a try for Michael Bell, converted out wide by Jack Quinn.
Shaun Nona replaced Salam and had an immediate impact with a deft short kick, resulting in a try for the hardworking Nathan Barrett.
With the conversion unsuccessful, it appeared the Cutters would head to the break with a two-point lead, but Emry Pere powered over and scored in the shadows of the first half - the conversion from Quinn had the Cutters ahead 16-8 going into the sheds.
In the 52nd minute, Faifai-Loa was over for his double after a superb finish following slick hands from the inside, but Daejarn Asi missed another difficult conversion to leave the home side behind by four.
Cutters hooker Sean Mullany was sin-binned in the 58th minute, but the Cutters hung on and the Blackhawks could not take advantage.
Ironically, upon the return of the Mullany to the field, the Blackhawks scored through Kyle Laybutt, who showed great invasion and speed from 20 metres out after a great pass from Nona.
Anderson took over the kicking duties and delivered with a sideline conversion, giving the Blackhawks the lead with 17 minutes left.
Feeney shut down a dangerous Cutters raid with five minutes left, but was sent to the sin bin, which then resulted to being sent from the field after disputing the decision.
Quinn levelled the score and the crowd was at fever pitch.
The Cutters took the ball upfield and Brendon Finegan missed with a field goal attempt, affording the Blackhawks a seven tackle set.
Following strong surges from Faifai-Loa, Griffin Neame and Corey Jensen; Josh Chudleigh found some space, offloaded to Anderson who got the ball to Campagnolo and the young boy from Tully did the rest to ensure a day he will never forget. Anderson converted from the sideline to end a memorable game.
Townsville captain Sam Hoare admitted the team still had a lot of improvement left.
“We have pretty high standards at this club and we haven’t been at that level for a few weeks now, but it was still great to get the win,” the prop forward said.
Hoare said coach Aaron Payne was not entirely happy with the performance.
“Aaron wanted us to build pressure in the first half and it was something we had spoke about during the week and put a focus on," Hoare said.
”But we got the monkey off our back a bit today and leading into the bye, we wanted to win.
“Hopefully now we can use this game as a springboard for the rest of the season."
The Blackhawks will enjoy the week off before travelling south to face off against the Burleigh Bears in a fortnight.
Match: Bears v Blackhawks
Round 8 -
Venue: Pizzey Park, Gold Coast
The Cutters are at home to the Pride next Saturday - live and free from 2pm on Kayo Freebies.
Match: Cutters v Pride
Round 8 -
Venue: BB Print Stadium, Mackay