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Magpies claim Mitch Cronin Memorial Cup in a thriller

There was a reverent and sombre prelude to the Wynnum Manly Seagulls v Souths Logan Magpies game at BMD Kougari Oval this afternoon as a packed crowd watched highlights of the lives of Paul Green and Mitch Cronin played out on the big screen prior to the players taking the field.

Both teams stood linking arms and you could have heard a pin drop as a minute’s silence was observed by the capacity crowd, with both men having given so much not only to Wynnum Manly Seagulls and Souths Logan Magpies, but to the game of rugby league more broadly.

Then, it was game on for the Mitch Cronin Memorial Cup.

A tough, seesawing battle ensued for the first 10 minutes with both teams making yards up the middle of the ruck.

The game began to turn towards the Magpies when Aaron Rockley was placed on report for a dangerous tackle and Souths applied the pressure. 

Wynnum Manly made an error in the in goal, forcing a line drop out. A minute later, Jack Smith made a break and charged over to score for the Magpies, and they had the early lead.

Just seven minutes later, Tristan Sailor – who was one of the Magpies best on the day – sprinted over to score close to the posts and successfully slotted the conversion and this quickly silenced the home crowd as they looked up to the scoreboard to see Souths up 10-0, a position no one expected the Gulls to be in.

The game started to swing in Wynnum Manly’s favour when Sione Hopoate scored out wide to make the score 10-4. It was the start of a 10-minute purple patch for the Bayside boys. 

In the 22nd minute, Magpies forward Fabien Paletua-Kiri gave up a penalty for a ball strip and Kalolo Saitaua, who was one of Wynnum’s standouts, charged over to score a try close in and Bailey Hartwig slotted the conversion to tie things up at 10 apiece.

Another dangerous tackle penalty by Paletua-Kiri almost in front allowed Hartwig to kick a penalty and the Gulls were in front 12-10.  The local crowd was again silenced however, when in the 31st minute Dredin Sorensen was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle and the expectation was Souths would take full advantage.

However, the opposite proved to be the case. It appeared being a man down really focused the Wynnum Manly side and on the back of a Magpie error by Christian Hazard, James Robinson in only his third game at Cup level, ploughed over close to the posts to score his maiden try in first grade. With the Hartwig conversion, the Seagulls went to the break 18-10 up and with injuries striking down a number of Magpies, there was a feeling the home team might run away with it in the second half.

The teams played for the Mitch Cronin Memorial Cup. Photo: Jim O'Reilly / QRL
The teams played for the Mitch Cronin Memorial Cup. Photo: Jim O'Reilly / QRL

However, the first 10 minutes of the second half was a torrid defensive battle, where a breakthrough would come on the back of a penalty or an error.

That happened in the 51st minute when Wynnum Manly got penalised for a late tackle close to the line and in the ensuing set of six, Justin Fai crashed over for a try converted by Sailor and the Magpies were only two points behind.

In the 70th and 72nd minute, two quick tries would break the Wynnum crowd’s heart when Kelly Tate and then Cory Paix scored tries close in that were converted by Sailor that gave Souths a 10-point lead at 32-22, with Tate’s being the second of his two tries.

The Seagulls threw everything at the Magpies in the last six minutes and nearly pulled it off when Max Plath ploughed over in the 75th minute. Farr converted to bring the home side within four points at 32-28 to set up a tense end to the match. The Seagulls even won possession on the ensuing short kick off, but Souths were able to hold on for the win.

There were many strong performers in both teams, with Hazard earning the Hastings Deering player of the match award. Honourable mentions go to Wynnum Manly hooker Tristan Hope and Magpies forward Kelly Tate who topped the tackle count for their respective teams. Sailor ran for 204 metres and Saitaua had the most run metres and line breaks for the Gulls.

Next week, Wynnum Manly have a game against Burleigh Bears they must win to remain a chance of finals.

Souths Logan will face Central Queensland Capras.

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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