The luckless Sunshine Coast Falcons have suffered a heartbreaking 15-14 defeat against the Northern Pride in an entertaining match that could’ve gone either way in Round 15 action of the Intrust Super Cup.
Pride halfback Sam Obst, who was cleared of a striking charge prior to the match, nailed a field goal in the 79th minute to hand the visitors their 11th win of the season. The less than impressive victory for the competition leaders extends their advantage to three points at the summit of the ISC ladder.
The PNG Hunters are now in outright second after fighting back from an 18-0 deficit to defeat Redcliffe 43-36, Burleigh stunned Ipswich with a 50-12 romp at North Ipswich Reserve that keeps their finals hopes alive, Curtis Rona scored twice as Mackay upset Wynnum Manly 18-16 at BMD Kougari Oval while James Roberts further pressed his claims for a maiden Titans call-up with a try n Tweed's 30-16 win over Norths Devils. Easts Tigers' 34-4 defeat of the Capras saw them leapfrog Wynnum and Norths into fifth spot on the ladder.
The rugby league gods have not been kind on the poor Falcons lately and in fairness the game probably deserved to be a draw, but they can take solace from their brilliant defensive display that repelled wave after wave of Pride attack.
Heading into the contest the Falcons had conceded an average of 32 points per match and were trapped in a vicious 32-game losing streak. To the Falcons credit, they were able to put all of that aside and demonstrate the kind of steely defensive desire you'd expect from a side that are sick and tired of defeat.
An out-of-sorts Pride outfit didn't play to their lofty table-topping standard but for the Falcons, the one-point loss was a glimmer of hope in what has been an otherwise bleak 2014 season to date.
The Falcons received a dream start to the match after they opened the scoring in the fourth minute when five-eighth Brett Doherty saw space and found the line from close range. Falcons skipper Ryan Hansen converted from almost directly in front to hand Sunshine Coast a 6-0 lead.
The Falcons' advantage didn’t last long as a dropped ball from their very next set led to the Pride's Tyrone McCarthy cutting back on the angle to muscle his way over the line which eventually levelled the score at 6-all thanks to Shaun Nona's conversion.
The Coast responded well with some lively attacking football which had the Pride on the back foot and almost led to a try to Kyle Van Klaveren, although the final ball to the Falcons' winger was correctly ruled forward.
A Pride mistake 10 metres out from their line allowed the Falcons dangerous field position and the home side responded with Doherty receiving the ball from the scrum and finding the line for his second try. Hansen's conversion saw the Falcons lead 12-6 in the 20th minute.
In similar fashion to the Pride's opening try, the Falcons gifted their opposition the ball from a mistake. Fullback Hezron Murgha caught the attention of the Falcons' defence enabling him to dish a pass off to Javid Bowen, with the centre crossing out wide to take the score to 12-10 after 23 minutes.
Just when it appeared the scoreboard would remain untouched heading into the break, Hansen slotted a penalty goal on the stroke of half-time to extend the Falcons' lead to 14-10.
The home side started the second stanza in opposite fashion to the first 40 after conceding a try within the first three minutes. Five-eighth Nona found Blake Leary and the back-rower crashed over the line to level the score at 14-14.
Northern Pride threatened to hit the front for the first time in the contest at the 50th-minute mark, but the Falcons survived back-to-back raids on their line to keep the scoreboard level before mounting an attack of their own.
Eight minutes later the home side had to survive a further wave of Pride attack and managed to hold them out again after the visitors spilt the ball less than five metres out from the try-line.
Heading into the final 20 minutes the Falcons upped the ante and threw everything they had at the Pride, but their profligacy with ball in hand ensured that the visitors' line was rarely tested. Numerous attacking chances continued to be squandered by the inexperienced Falcons, as a number of opportunities amounted to nothing due to poor fifth-tackle options.
It was much of the same inside the final 10 minutes as the Pride had multiple attacking chances, but were snuffed out yet again by the desperate Falcons who looked like taking the ascendancy by marching into field-goal territory only to spill the ball on the halfway line to set the Pride up for their chance at a one-pointer.
From the resulting set and just as it appeared the Falcons would be able to hold on for a draw, Pride halfback Sam Obst stepped up and sweetly struck a field goal from 20 metres out almost directly in front which broke the Falcons' hearts and left them no time with which to reply.
Northern Pride 15 (Tyrone McCarthy, Javid Bowen, Blake Leary tries; Shaun Nona goal, Sam Obst field goal) def. Sunshine Coast Falcons 14 (Brett Doherty 2 tries; Ryan Hansen 3 goals) at Stockland Stadium. Half-time: Falcons 14-10.
For full results from Round 15 and the updated Intrust Super Cup table click here.