Blackhawks struggle to fire in 18-16 loss to Redcliffe

Monday, June 13, 2016

Story originally published in Townsville Bulletin – MICHAEL THOMPSON, Sports reporter, Townsville Bulletin

TOWNSVILLE Blackhawks fullback Matty Bowen fell short of conjuring up some fulltime magic yesterday as the Blackhawks fell to the Redcliffe Dolphins 18-16.

The Blackhawks coughed up a 16-0 halftime lead by going scoreless in the second half, but Bowen almost came up with a flash of genius on the game’s last tackle.

Looking up from dummy half inside Redcliffe’s half, Bowen kicked across field for centre Delouise Hoeter, who was winning a foot race between him and Redcliffe fullback Jack Ahearn, only to see the ball grubber into touch.

Just one fortunate bounce could have seen Hoeter stroll over in the corner for a fulltime winner, but instead it was Redcliffe that held on thanks to a heavy defensive effort that blunted the Blackhawks’ attack.

Michael Parker-Walshe was a late inclusion after being in doubt pre-game with concussion concerns, slotting in at five-eighth in place of Sam Foster, but the new combination of Parker-Walshe, Jahrome Hughes at halfback and Bowen struggled for cohesion.

That was most evident in the final 10 minutes as Townsville had the run of possession, including a pair of repeat sets inside Redcliffe’s own half, only to come up with nothing in the face of Redcliffe’s quick line speed and physicality.

The Blackhawks now share top spot on the ISC ladder with Burleigh, which beat Wynnum-Manly 32-10, while Redcliffe trail by just one competition point in third.

“We played some really good footy in the first half, but in the 15-20 minutes after halftime we just made too many errors, and we made some poor decisions in attack.” Blackhawks coach Kristian Woolf said.

“That got Redcliffe right back in the game and it was a real arm-wrestle form then on, and then they decided to take the two points when they got that penalty.

“We always knew it was going to be a close one and both teams defended really well, but it was just those errors after halftime that really hurt us.

“That was a new 6, 7 and 1 we had out there and it’s going to take time for them to gel.”

The Blackhawks breezed to a 10-0 buffer inside the opening 20 minutes after Lona Kaifoto Hughes bagged early tries, and the barnstorming effort continued as Hezron Murgha picked up a loose ball inside his team’s own in-goal to score a length of the field try before halftime.

A win looked assured, but proving this year’s ISC season is no one-team race, the Dolphins came out firing in the second stanza and did not relent after Ahearn got the home side’s first try five minutes after the break.

The tide had well and truly turned when centre Thomas Opacic got Redcliffe’s second just five minutes later, and the equaliser came when fellow centre Daniel Randall brushed aside Hoeter to score down the left edge.

The Blackhawks recovered to throw a handful of attacking sets at Redcliffe, although none resulted in points as Redcliffe went in front for the first time courtesy of a Darren Nicholls penalty goal on 65 minutes.

And that’s how the score remained despite the Blackhawks’ late attacking flurry.

Images Courtesy of Vanessa Hafner – © Vanessa 2016