Intrust Super Cup finals preview
September is set to sizzle in the Intrust Super Cup with the red-hot finals action kicking off on Sunday afternoon as only five teams remain in the hunt for Queensland Rugby League's greatest prize.
Northern Pride, Wynnum Manly Seagulls, Easts Tigers, Tweed Heads Seagulls and Ipswich Jets have all survived 26 gruelling rounds of competition that saw nearly 7300 points scored and also featured the highly anticipated ISC debut of new franchise, the PNG Hunters.
Wynnum Manly Seagulls and Easts Tigers will lock horns again after only playing each other last Sunday, with the Seagulls scoring a last-minute try to down the Tigers 18-14 and secure home ground advantage for the Qualifying Semi-Final at BMD Kougari Oval.
Trailing 12-0 after 21 minutes, the Tigers clawed their way back into the contest to lead 14-12 midway through the second half only to be pipped by the Seagulls in the 79th minute courtesy of fullback Daniel Ogden's second try.
Played in a finals-like intensity, one man who escaped most of the brutality in the middle was Easts' winger Jarrod McInally, who has scored 20 tries from 23 games this season.
The 25-year-old, who has signed a two-year contract to play with the Canterbury Bulldogs from next season, says the Tigers' tight loss to the Seagulls might just be the tonic his team needs heading into the cut-throat arena of finals football.
"It was disappointing to lose on the weekend but I think it just showed what we can actually do," McInally said.
"I think it all keeps us on the same page and everyone is firing at the same time.
"We were just a bit unlucky at the end. We gave them a bit of a head start so we'll look to change that on the weekend and not give them the first half and play our full 80 minutes.
"We probably haven’t put 80 minutes of footy together for the whole year so hopefully we can do that come finals."
The Tigers have made two key positional changes with Melbourne Storm youngster Cameron Munster returning from suspension to replace Eddie Tautali at fullback while Liam Tyson replaces Tommy Butterfield at hooker. Felise Kaufusi, Donald Malone and Kenny Bromwich – younger brother of Storm forward Jesse Bromwich – all come onto an extended bench.
The Seagulls have made one minor change to their side for Sunday's clash with Graham Clarke promoted to the run-on side in place of Chris McLean who drops to the bench.
Meanwhile, Sunday's second finals match-up sees Tweed Heads host Ipswich in the Elimination Semi-Final at Piggabeen Sports Complex with the winner to advance to a Week Two showdown with the loser of the Wynnum Manly-Easts qualifying final.
The Jets have never beaten Tweed south of the border in 13 games, including 10 at Piggabeen with both teams heading into the match on the back of last-start wins, enabling them to qualify for the finals at PNG's expense.
Tweed Heads have made one forced change with influential back-rower Cory Blair suspended for two matches for a dangerous throw with his replacement yet to be named.
The Jets have made two changes with Marmin Barba moving from the bench to fullback at the expense of Javarn White and Liam Capewell will come into the starting side for Joshua Seage with Rob Worsley added to the bench.
The Seagulls and Jets have clashed twice this season for one win each, with the Jets winning 25-18 at Ipswich in Round 2 and Tweed getting the job done 32-28 at home in Round 16.