Blackhawks qualify for Grand Final in a thriller

Monday, September 14, 2015

Just over one year ago the Townsville & Districts Mendi Blackhawks were announced as the 14th team to join the Intrust Super Cup at the QRL’s annual Gala Dinner. Three hundred and sixty-seven days later, the new club qualified for the competition’s grand final with a clinical win over the in-form PNG Hunters. It’s been one hell of an inaugural year for the North Queensland club.

Fans from both clubs came in droves to Jack Manski Oval on Saturday for the Major Semi-final between teams 1 and 2 in the Intrust Super Cup. Initial estimates put the crowd at around 5000 which exceeds the season’s previous largest crowd by around 1500 people.

The fans were certainly not disappointed as the two clubs produced an exciting spectacle well worthy of a finals football.

It was a committed and ruthless Mendi Blackhawks side who took to the field at their home ground without the services of hard working Captain Daniel Beasley and fellow front row partner Ricky Thorby, who was a late withdrawal on game day.

It was Glenn Hall, Neville Costigan and Kelepi Tanginoa working hard in the initial stages of the match to get the team moving forward. Hooker Anthony Mitchell was exceptional out of dummy half ensuring his team got the ball in great field position.

The home side not only starved the Hunters of possession for the first 10 minutes of the match, but they also used their own plays wisely, crossing the line twice inside the first 7 minutes. With try-scoring star Zac Santo coming up with a double running off two Moses Pangai try assists.

Santo was not the only one relishing having the hulking centre back in the regular line up, the entire team benefited greatly from his return. Not only was Pangai a handful on the edges, but his heavy hitting tackles surely would have given the Hunters nightmares.

The Hunters hit back just after the 25th minute through Adex Wera taking the score to 8-6 after the visitors finally gained some much needed possession. It became an intense battle between the two heavyweight sides as the Hunters began to look dangerous with the ball towards the end of the first half.

Momentum again swung back in favour of the home side though when Rob Lui and Jahrome Hughes combined to put Tom Humble over the line to extend the lead to 14-6.

It was a nail-biting final ten minutes of the first half as the Hunters tried to even up the score and the Mendi Blackhawks held on valiantly in defence of their own line.  The half time differential remained 8 points.

The second stanza began with a tense arm wrestle and it was a familiar face who eventually scored the first points of the half after Santo lined up for yet another Pangai try assist and tiptoed down the sideline for his hat-trick at the 50th minute.

It only took 7 minutes for the Hunters to hit back, this time through Adam Korave who used brute force to push his way over the line and narrow the gap to 6 points.

It seemed Santo was far from finished after he found himself perfectly positioned to catch a high ball that was knocked on by the Hunters and he became the first player in history to score four tries in an Intrust Super Cup final.

A feat that was bested only 24 hours later by a red hot Matt Parcell of the Ipswich Jets who scored 5 tires in their big Semi-Final win over the Easts Tigers.

The visitors did their best to get back into the game but the Hunters showed their nerves in their maiden finals appearance with dropped ball and some questionable decisions, whilst the Mendi Blackhawks were outstanding in defence.

In a fitting end to an outstanding comeback, Pangai crossed for the final points of the match in the left hand corner sending the crowd into a frenzy and taking the final score to 26-12 to the Mendi Blackhawks.

Whilst Santo and Pangai were both explosive, it was Lui and Michael-Parker Walshe who combined brilliantly in the halves to steer the team around the paddock and youngsters Corey Jensen and Samsen O’Neil backing up their fantastic Round 25 performances with more of the same.

However it would do the team and the coaching staff a disservice to single out any one player for the performance of the match because the home side consistently turned out in numbers to perform as a solid unit across the park. In a nod to the rich army heritage of the Townsville region and the team’s namesake, the Mendi Blackhawks went into battle and triumphed because of a genuine desire to stand shoulder to shoulder and win for each other.

Coach Kristian Woolf was dleighted with his side’s effort, “It was an excellent performance from our men on a fittingly big night for us as a club in our inaugural season.

“While we are very proud and excited to be playing in the Grand Final in our 1st year, the job is far from done. There is a lot of hard work ahead of us.” He said.