Brisbane Red has run away with a 44-28 win over Cairns in the final of the XXXX League Championship at Logan Metro Sports Complex on Saturday night.
After a measured start from both teams, Luke Maddaford looked to have broken the deadlock inside five minutes when his grubber kick struck the post before claiming a try, but was deemed to have knocked on.
The scare sparked Cairns into action the very next set from the restart. It began with a Rhylee Herd last-tackle kick down the right side, which took a wicked bounce back into his arms and had the home side scrambling in defence.
A spread left through the hands found late call-up Ryan Madua and the winger opened the scoring in the sixth minute.
Brisbane Red hit back just four minutes later when Mitchell Butler leapt high above Zachery Mossman to grab a David Quinlin bomb and tie it up.
Cairns tried to impose themselves physically with and without the ball, but the efforts came unstuck in the 14th minute when Aaron Jolley couldn’t handle an errant Aidan Day offload, allowing Jack Stafford to toe the ball ahead twice to score for Brisbane. Hayden Herbert converted to make it 10-4.
Fullback Jalen Reweti crashed over six minutes later to extend the lead to 14-4, but the visitors hit back in the 30th minute when a crash play had Jason Hallie crossing the stripe, and the try was converted to make it 14-10.
It was at that time Savaan Tahere was injected into the game and the crafty dummy-half made an immediate impact, putting Wynnum Manly Juniors teammate Luke Maddaford through a hole, who then bumped off a would-be tackler and linked up with Quinlin for a 34th minute try.
Three minutes later it was Maddaford’s turn to touch down, taking advantage of a Quinlin kick that gave luckless Cairns fullback Aaron Jolley no chance, leading to a 26-10 half-time scoreline.
Cairns piled on pressure at the start of the second half, but Brisbane Red forced several errors in defence. The home side got the reward in the 49th minute when another Quinlin kick was left to bounce, which second rower Reed Young snared before offloading to Maddaford in support for his second try.
The match was then delayed about an hour after a serious leg injury to Cairns interchange player Ammiel Harris with 22 minutes on the clock, and his side lifted on the resumption to get right in the game.
After sustained pressure, Ben Barba slipped through in the line and three minutes later Bradley Stephen, who had shifted to fullback, was there in support for Barba, who received the ball after Budhagi Gibuma smartly scooped a loose ball off the ground.
But with the game poised 30-22, Brisbane Red found another gear and Jalen Reweti produced a superb cutout pass for Richard Pandia to dive over in the 71st minute.
Hayden Herbert kicked a sideline conversion to all but seal the game, before adding a penalty goal with two minutes to play.
Brisbane Red second rower Tom McGrath put the icing on the cake with a try in the final minute, which Herbert converted to complete a 44-28 win.
Brisbane Red coach Darren Ferricks said he was proud of his side and full of praise for Cairns, who showed fantastic spirit despite the injuries to Harris and five-eighth Rhylee Herd.
"I'm just excited mate, really happy just to get the win," Ferricks said.
"Them Cairns boys were outstanding, they kept going, lost two plays and had a never-say-die attitude, then when we had that stoppage of play with 22 minutes to go, they gave us a bit of a scare.
"Credit to our boys, I'm just so proud of the of the group of this journey that we've had in the last three months with the XXXX Chairman's Challenge and then the semi-final.
"The boys are stoked and I'm so happy for them."
Ferricks said his forwards were outstanding, particularly his edges Reed Young and Izaac Skyring, and praised the team for staying switched on pouncing on opportunities they forced by heaping pressure on the visitors.
He said he was looking forward to now seeing how the confidence the players got out of this win would transfer to the BRL Premier A grade competition on the run home to and during the finals.
Watch all the highlights and full replay of the match at Qplus.tv