Best players Meninga Cup, Connell Challenge round 1
Rugby league is back with a bang, with the opening rounds of Connell Challenge and Meninga Cup played across the state this weekend.
In matches today, it was a double celebration for the Wynnum Manly Seagulls who claimed the Connell Cup 22-12 over home side Norths, and then the Meninga Cup clash by 26-24.
A bone-rattling tackle by Norths second rower Wesleyan Aiomata on opposite five-eight William Herbert had the crowd in rugby league heartland of Bishop Park roaring.
It was a great start to the season.
This afternoon in Meninga Cup action, the Norths-Wynnum match which ebbed and flowed, with Wynnum largely in the pilots' seat after Norths shocked their rivals to lead 10-nil.
But after Wynnum's Blake Moore scored his second try into the second half, Norths hit back to level the scores courtesy of middle forward Felix Faatili and with 18 minutes to go, it was 18-all and up for grabs.
With superior ball control, Wynnum Manly looked best placed to break the deadlock and so it was when captain John Radel strolled over 15 minutes from full-time.
However, with three minutes remaining, Norths cut Wynnum's advantage to 26-24 after big prop Damascus Neemia ploughed over, but the Seagulls hung on.
Wynnum coach Jesse Maclean was delighted, loving the comeback from his side after Norths had jumped them in the Meninga Cup. "We were the underdogs, I love that story. The boys were short on size but we used that to our advantage,'' he praised.
Maclean said both his dummy halves, Sean Packer and Braydon Seu-Easthope were outstanding against a very good football team. "They are two really good team men who do what is best for the team,'' Maclean said.
Earlier in Connell Cup action, Wynnum Manly won the match built around superior ball control, with coach Jarrod Biggs delighted with his team's desire in the defence given the heat.
"And when we pushed in motion and got players in support, we looked good with the ball,'' Biggs added.
Biggs said his 15-year-olds all did well, but he was most impressed with his halfback Cooper Hersom both with and without the ball, and his two starting front rowers Troy Brack-Vea and Zane Ford.
Norths coach Rob Taniela said his side lost its "connection'' which was evident during the off-season and trial matches.
But he said a pleasing aspect was Norths' right side attack.
The better side won, with a runaway try from Seagulls halfback Hersom with 12 minutes from full-time giving the bayside visitors a down payment on victory.
Hersom's effort followed an earlier barnstorming performance from interchange forward Evanda Tofilau to score.
A try to Norths earlier in the second half - following a handling error by Wynnum - came courtesy of darting hooker Jai Camilleri.
Earlier in the first half, Seagulls scored first against the run of play when centre Luke Anderson found space.
But an intercept from Norths winger Hosea Kedzlie soon after, when Wynnum were on the attack, shifted momentum which provided the Devils with field position to score.
From the set of six Norths attacked right before skipper Lauloto Salei took play to the left courtesy of a cross kick that was plucked from the air by winger Riley Jenkins.
Wynnum were back in front 12-6 shortly before halftime when lively No. 9 Jack Hudson scored his first try of the season.
In Saturday's matches, Mustangs' Connell Cup coach Matt Jahnke watched his team beat the Bulls 44-0 but was not impressed with the team's ball control despite the win. "We were a bit scrappy to be honest and our ball control was below our standards'' he said.
But defensively he was happy to keep the Bulls to nought.
Mustangs' five-eighth Lyhkan King-Togia shone in a side which was disrupted by several late changes, as did halfback Kobe Timms who was called into the team the night before to play halfback.
After props De la Salle Va'a and Jai Purcer pushed forward in the middle, winger Luke Cesari, part of a famous league family on the Downs', finished movements for Mustangs.
Redcliffe Connell Challenge coach Wade Hadley said it was a "great team performance for our first competition game,'' following the outfit's 30-10 win against the Tigers.
He said there were particularly good performances from Jaedon Wellington and Guireh Brooks.
Tigers coach Damien Pratt said defence would be a focus for his group at training this week.
"We are going back to work on marker defence and communication in defence,'' Pratt said.
"Toward the end we also lost some body language and stopped talking with each other.''
Pratt said his hooker Cameron Bukowski and backrower Mikael Ibrahim were outstanding, with the leadership of Bukowski - who is an ace schoolboy cricketer - showing on the field.
Indeed Bukowski, who plays First XI at Villanova College, scored a 100 in the year 10 competition in the morning before shining for the Tigers in the evening.
Dolphins Meninga Cup coach Steve Little said his front rower Michael Waqa and five-eight Karl Oloapu shone, while second rower Jayden Butt gave his team grunt.
Townsville Blackhawks Connell Challenge coach Nathan Norford said his captain Shibasaki led from the front with two tries and was a handful in attack and defence when the Blackhawks pipped Cutters.
"It was pleasing to see how they (the team) bounced back from adversity,'' Norford said.
The Blackhawks Meninga Cup coach Steve Sheppard said he did not have a bad player in his team's 48-10 win over Cutters. "We started fast and applied pressure,'' Sheppard said.
The forwards laid an excellent foundation for their halves, including for edge backrower Will Latu who shone.
And on the fringes centres Xaiver Chatfield-Mooka and Dudley Doti played strongly.
Souths Logan Meninga Cup coach Billy Vine his dummy half Tryone Bowman was outstanding in the 10 point loss to the Bears, playing all 70 minutes and taking advantage of any momentum.
Magpies halfback Ezra Mam also did well playing on both sides of the field.
In the Souths Logan Connell Cup win against Burleigh, Magpies Ripley and Tinsley performed strongly in a winning team.
Tweed Seagulls Meninga Cup side had a come-from-behind win against the Jets after starting strongly.
Tweed coach Tim Maccan was pleased with the courage and positive attitude they finished the match with after at one stage falling behind.
Left backrower Ryan Foran was strong running and in defence, while lock JT Manuofetoa stood strong in the middle for Tweed.
In the Connell Challenge action, No. 9 Will Saunders produced an elite performance in Tweeds Heads' 28-20 win over Jets, while Taelon Te Whuihops, Kees Cassidy and Bailey Mendham also did well.
The Jets Meninga Cup coach Mike Armstrong said his middle forwards, the two props and the No. 13, played strongly throughout.
Ipswichs Jets Connell Cup coach Jai Gadadon praised his halfback Olando Fetauiriki in a reasonably satisfying team performance despite defeat.
"I was happy from our trial form to round 1. We did not get the result but I was happy with the overall performance.''
Capras Connell Challenge coach Kane Hardy said it was a fine win by his side 24-14 over Falcons.
Hardy said hooker Jai Hansen got the show on the road from dummy half and outside centres Koby Williamson and Elekana Suai, along with winger Kalani Sing, shone for the Central Queensland side. Sing is the son of Queensland State of Origin champion Matt.
It was a double celebration for Capras when the Duane Carpenter coached under 16 Meninga Cup side also claimed victory, 50-8 over Falcons.
"The boys showed huge improvements from their pre-season trial games,'' Carpenter said.
"It was a big team effort across the park but Blaine Watson and Hoani's work trade from the front set up the platform for Ruder Huth, Sam Chick and Tommy Green to get out on the edges and get our points on the board.''
Defensively Connor Hinds and Mathew Groves did well against the threatening Falcons' attack.
The Mackay Cutters Meninga Cup side was beaten 48-10 by Blackhawks, with coach Nick Swan saying lot of errors, some unforced, led to the side failing to defend their mistakes.
"There were some strong individual performances - Ethan Sweet, Noah Cookson, Baden Robinson, Arthur Miller-Stephens,'' he said.
"But as a team, we simply gave the Blackhawks too much possession through our errors and they were good enough to capitalise on their opportunities.''
Blackhawks 30 defeated Cutters 28
Seagulls 28 defeated Jets 20
Souths Logan 38 defeated Bears 8
Mustangs 44 defeated Bulls 0
Capras 24 defeated Falcons 14
Dolphins 30 defeated Tigers 10
Wynnum 22 defeated Norths 12
Blackhawks 48 defeated Cutters 10
Seagulls 22 defeated Jets 20
Bears 38 defeated Magpies 28
Capras 50 defeated Falcons 8
Mustangs 50 defeated Bulls 8
Dolphins 38 defeated Tigers 6
Originally published as Best players Meninga Cup, Connell Challenge round 1