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Tweed hold off determined PNG Hunters outfit

The Campbell Construction Co Tweed Seagulls recovered from a slow start to beat the Papua New Guinea Hunters 24-22 at Tugun RLFC, Tugun.

An early Seagulls penalty provided the Hunters with the first opportunity to attack in good ball and the visitors made it count.

Having looked relatively comfortable defending the line and shutting down a long-side right shift, Hunters five-eighth Mark Tony put in a grubber which ended up in the arms of Keven Appo. An unlucky deflection off the Seagulls defender allowed the Hunters to open the scoring.

Rinsing and repeating, another Seagulls penalty gifted the Hunters field position and they came up with the same result. This time, Tony used a pass to put a teammate through the line and Brandon Nima ended up under the posts.

Down 12-0 inside 10 minutes, the Seagulls needed to respond.

They have thrived behind a strong defence all year and it finally started to show in this one.

A crunching tackle as Terry Wapi was taken back over 10 metres when returning a 20-metre restart acted as a turning point for the Seagulls. They used their defence to promote improvements to their attack.

Making it difficult for the Hunters to work out of their own end and with the Seagulls on the front foot, Craig Garvey started to enjoy himself when getting out of dummy half.

His tempo and deception caused havoc for the Hunters around the ruck as the 29-year-old darted and passed his side up the field and into attacking position.

The sustained pressure eventually translated into points after both Ioane Seiuli and Garvey were held up over the line in quick succession. A repeat set added some fatigue to the Hunters defensive line and Braden Robson made them pay with a short pass to JJ Collins on the line.

The big prop strolled over for his first try of the season.

A Hunters high tackle straight off the kick-off sent the Seagulls flying back up field.

While the home side couldn’t keep the scoreboard ticking over, they extended their period of dominance as the Hunters struggled to work their way up the field.

Garvey set the standard with his dummy half play and Blake Scott followed suit shortly after his introduction to the game. Using a hard-running Josh Patston as a decoy for the B defender, Scott hit the A defender on the line and spun his way over to level up the scoreboard at 12-12.

It wasn't until four minutes before halftime that the Hunters ended up back inside the Seagulls 20-metre line.

They couldn’t find any points but did see a Seagulls player sent to the bin after Lee Turner was given his marching orders for taking out kick-chaser.

The 12-12 halftime score accurately reflected a first 40 minutes in which the Hunters started exceptionally well before the Seagulls asserted their dominance for the remainder of the half.

Like the first half, the second started with a Seagulls penalty and error to provide the Hunters with the first attacking period after the break. However, unlike the first half, the Seagulls defence held firm and they soon worked their way into the grind and, soon enough, into the lead.

Looking dangerous when sending it wide through Will Brimson, Lee Turner and Kaleb Ngamanu earlier in the match, Brimson this time dropped Patston back underneath.

Showing great strength as he bumped off the first contact before driving two defenders over the line, Patston slammed the ball down through three defenders to push the Seagulls out to an 18-12 lead.

That 18-12 lead became 22-12 on the following set. A linebreak down the left edge sent the Hunters defence scrambling.

Cool, calm and collected, Lindon McGrady chipped one over into the corner of JoJo Fifita who rose up and came down with the football to score Tweed’s fourth unanswered try.

Kitron Laka answered back for the Hunters with a super solo effort 10 minutes later. Leaving defenders on the ground in chalk, he broke five tackles on his way to the line to pull his side to within four points of the hosts.

The Hunters are a confidence side. They play games in waves and started to roll themselves back into this one which must have worried blanketed Seagulls faithful on the Tugun RLFC hill.

Just as it looked as though the Seagulls had weathered the storm and would hold out the visitors through to fulltime, Terry Wapi pulled off a brutal and athletic finish in the corner to level the scores at 22-22 with five minutes to play.

Enter the Prince of Piggabeen, Lindon McGrady.

He bounced the kick-off into touch to give his side a scrum in the middle of the field ten metres from the line.

A relatively ugly, but composed field goal set later, he chipped one through the posts to put the Seagulls 23-22 in front before Scott made sure of things with another field goal as time expired.

In a back-and-forth encounter between two sides trying to drag themselves up the Hostplus Cup ladder, the Seagulls came out on top 24-22 and will now prepare to face the 14th-placed Ipswich Jets in Round 11.

Key takeaways

Paul Turner has filled the fullback spot for much of the season, but wasn’t available for this one. Instead, Ryland Jacobs took over the No.1 jersey and he didn’t disappoint.

Slotting into similar positions Turner has filled throughout the season, Jacobs took possession both at first-receiver and out the back of shape when Tweed went searching through the right edge.

Kaleb Ngamanu made the second appearance of his Hostplus Cup career on the wing for Jacobs. The 19-year-old provided the strong carries Tweed needed out of yardage and managed to find a quick play-the-ball behind them more often than not.

It comes up every week, but with Brent Woolf named at 18th man for this one, the Seagulls have an embarrassment of riches at hooker.

Craig Garvey used all of his guile and experience to bring Tweed back into the game following a slow start before Blake Scott used his speed around the ruck to continue their dominance at the position. It’s a position the Seagulls can rely on every week regardless of who is out there.

Coach’s comments

The Seagulls have dealt with a postponed game, venue changes and lost Paul Turner during the week which disrupted the build-up for this one.

“Preparation has been very difficult and that showed today, particularly in our attack,” Woolf said.

“We were a little clunky at times, particularly in good ball.”

Next round, the Seagulls will take on Ipswich Jets.

The Hunters will host Souths Logan Magpies.

Main image: Tweed go on the attack. Photo: Dylan Parker/QRL

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