The Campbell Construction Co. Tweed Seagulls headed up the M1 and piled on the points early. However, in a classic game of two halves, the Sunshine Coast Falcons came back from 24-0 down to secure a 26-24 golden point win at Sunshine Coast Stadium.
The two sides showed their hands early on in this one.
Where the Falcons kept it tight, charged the middle and looked to kick to the corners, the Seagulls looked to play a more expansive brand of footy. Jamayne Isaako’s wide-ranging pass to Treymain Spry while working out of yardage acted as a sign of things to come in the first half.
Closer to the line as the Seagulls searched left and right in attack, Toby Sexton and Will Brimson made sure to control the end of sets, both forcing dropouts in back-to-back sets.
The pressure on the line eventually translated into points as a Seagulls right side shift ended with Lindon McGrady throwing a cut-out ball to Isaako in the corner.
The Seagulls have been scoring points in bunches all season and kept the scoreboard ticking over on the following set. An outrageous solo effort from Sam Lisone pushed Tweed’s lead out to 12.
The big prop forward put on a step to break through the line before beating the last line of defence to score under the posts.
A penalty soon after released pressure and provided the Falcons with an opportunity to attack the line themselves. However, upon forcing a dropout and looking to emulate what the Seagulls had just done to them, McGrady’s short dropout was collected by a team mate and Lisone again produced a moment of brilliance for the Seagulls to continue piling up the points.
Caught in possession on the last, Lisone shaped to kick, registered another line break, and drew the last line of defence before passing JJ Collins over the line.
Playing with confidence and searching down the edges in yardage, the Seagulls again found success out wide. A right shift on 4th tackle sent Spry down the sideline who brushed aside Grant Anderson. Sexton pushed up in support to score under the posts and make it 24-0 in the 25th minute.
Starved of possession, the Falcons found a second wind shortly before halftime.
Able to finish their sets, force an error out of Spry and a Sexton kick out on the full, the Seagulls’ 65 per cent possession at the time started to drop.
A disjointed Falcons attack struggled to crack the Seagulls line, though. It wasn’t until four minutes before halftime that Tyson Smoothy sent Jack Gibbons at and over the top of Sexton on the line to cut Tweed’s lead to 18. It’s a try that proved crucial in the end.
The Falcons needed to start the second half strong if they were to mount a comeback. They managed to pin the Seagulls in their own end early, forcing them to travel 90+ metres at the end of multiple sets.
While the attack looked sharper than it did in the first 40, the Sunshine Coast still couldn’t crack a Tweed line that scrambled on both sides of the field. Campbell Dufty went close, but the Seagulls defence held him up before pushing him back over the line to keep the prop forward from scoring.
With McGrady forced from the field with an injury, Daniel Ross found himself on the left wing with Paul Turner moving to fullback. The Falcons looked to target Ross. He had the answers in the air to defuse a Cooper Johns kick.
However, the Falcons did find points down that side of the field through Will Warbrick in the 58th minute.
Warbrick’s try and the pressure built throughout the first 20 minutes in the second half took its toll on the Seagulls.
The Falcons played with more energy after points. They dominated the yardage game, applied pressure through maintaining possession, and forced the Seagulls to work hard out of their own end.
Where the Falcons started their sets on the 30-metre line, it took three of four for the Seagulls to cross their own 30 in return.
Johns continued to pepper Ross on the last with Warbrick getting above the makeshift winger. Warbrick earned his side a golden opportunity to attack the line with 12 minutes to play, but a Polselli error put an end to that visit into good ball.
On the next, though, Johns sent Louis Geraghty over the line with a superb pass. Shaping inside to Polselli hanging off his hip, Johns drew the three-in defender for Geraghty to close the gap to six with six minutes remaining.
It only took three to level things up. An Anderson offload and Gibbons flick pass down the left edge as the Falcons crossed halfway sent Daniel Atkinson down the sideline. Polselli, having made a few errors in a performance defined by effort and perseverance, pushed up in support to score under the posts leaving just 90 seconds on the clock with the scoreboard locked at 24-24.
The Falcons didn’t need to touch the ball in golden point to secure the win.
As the ball hung in the air from the kick off, Isaako lost it in the sun resulting in a forced dropout.
With it, Isaako failed to get it past the 10-metre line allowing Smoothy to slot the penalty and book the Sunshine Coast’s place in the preliminary final.
In a back-and-forth thriller that saw two 24-point runs inside the 80 minutes, the Falcons found the points when it mattered most to win 26-24.
Next week, the Falcons will play Norths Devils in the preliminary final.
Written by Jason Oliver of Rugby League Writers on behalf of Tweed Seagulls Media
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