Intrust Super Cup Round 9 results
It's been said many times that the only thing harder than winning a game of rugby league is having to win it twice but that is the bad habit Burleigh are trying to break after defeating the PNG Hunters in a thrilling Intrust Super Cup clash on Anzac Day.
The meeting between the Bears and Hunters was one of three Round 9 clashes played on Anzac Day but unlike the other two, Burleigh's home turf was not one of partisan support with the Hunters faithful flocking to see their team at Pizzey Park.
They looked as though they'd have little to cheer when the Bears raced out to a 20-4 lead but an inspired display to start the second half saw the Hunters post three unanswered tries and take a 22-20 advantage before Burleigh replacement Chris Kitching barged over under the posts in the 75th minute to secure a 26-22 victory.
Elsewhere on Anzac Day the Central Queensland Capras put on a gallant display before going down to defending premiers Mackay 34-28 and Wynnum Manly upset the high-flying Norths Devils with a 30-10 triumph at BMD Kougari Oval. In other Round 9 results the Northern Pride had to stave off a determined Souths Logan to win 24-22, Ipswich cemented their place as joint competition leaders with a 30-14 win over Redcliffe and Tweed Heads set up a tantalising local derby against Burleigh next week with a hard-fought 23-14 win over Easts.
Having given up a big lead against Ipswich in Round 4 before fighting back to win, the Bears showed the force they could potentially be in 2014 with a lightning start to their clash with the visiting Hunters who enjoyed the majority of crowd support.
With experienced NRL veterans in Matt Keating, Matt Bell and Steve Michaels in their ranks, the Bears rose to the very special occasion with Zac Mackay, the son of another former NRL star in Graham Mackay, opening the scoring with a try from a cross-field kick in the fifth minute.
Eight minutes later and the Hunters appeared destined to strike back as they attacked the right side if not for some clever intervention from Burleigh centre Khan Ahwang, who stuck out his left hand, juggled the intercept and then raced 95 metres to score untouched. He converted his own try and the Bears had opened up a handy 10-0 advantage.
With an emphasis on playing quickly through the middle third of the field, Burleigh repeatedly had the PNG defence on the back foot and in the 21st minute it was Ryley Jacks who took advantage to lay on a try for Matt Beddow.
After his forwards had rumbled their way down-field, Jacks had a mountain of time on the Hunters line before hitting Beddow with a deft inside pass and a 16-0 lead midway through the first half.
The Hunters were soon able to wrestle away a decent share of possession and after earning repeat sets on the Burleigh line scored their first through Garry Lo, their entertaining brand of football seeing the ball spun from the very extremes on the right to the left corner on the first tackle for Lo to cross out wide.
Steve Michaels extended Burleigh's lead to 20-4 when he touched down in the right corner when a cross-field kick went to ground and Mackay was unlucky not to finish the half with a hat-trick, denied twice first from a foot into touch and then a knock-on as he was attempting to ground the ball.
If Burleigh thought a 16-point lead and a strong breeze at their back was a position of power, they were soon put on their heels as a second try to Lo and further four-pointers to Willie Minoga and David Loko put the Hunters in front with 11 minutes remaining in the match.
From the start of the second term the match was played at a frenetic pace and having been starved of possession for almost the entire half, Burleigh seemed destined to succumb to the enthusiasm of the visitors.
But cool heads prevailed and a selective pass from Keating a dummy-half found a rampaging Kitching who put his body on the line to crash over under the posts.
Burleigh's fifth win from nine games keeps them in touch with the top sides and with the mix of Titans squad members, former NRL stars and young talent in their squad they have a team to match anyone, as long as they can eliminate those periods where they switch off.
The Hunters now enjoy a week off with five wins and a draw from their nine games and have proven that they are genuine finals contenders in their first season.
Burleigh Bears 26 (Zac Mackay, Khan Ahwang, Matt Beddow, Steve Michaels, Chris Kitching tries; Ahwang 3 goals) def. PNG Hunters 22 (Garry Lo 2, Willie Minoga, David Loko tries; Noel Zeming 3 goals). Half-time: Burleigh 20-4.
For detailed results and the updated Intrust Super Cup ladder click here.