Comeback thriller kicks off QRL's Country Week
It was not just a game of football; it was food for the soul.
The opening game of the QRL's Country Week proved a complete success with one of the more entertaining Intrust Super Cup matches of the year in Charters Towers.
The ladder-leading and premiership-favourite Townsville Blackhawks reeled in an 18-0 deficit to roll the Ipswich Jets in front of a vocal audience at Bill Lewis Oval on Saturday evening.
But this 80 minutes wasn't so much about the match as it was about the game.
The QRL's Country Week is about bringing high-quality rugby league to audiences who don't normally get the chance to experience it at such a level.
It didn't take long for the locals to get a taste of how this game was going to pan out.
Ipswich owned the first 20 minutes of the contest, and thus the football was erratic, flashy, fun and everything in between.
Rising star and new Broncos recruit Carlin Anderson got the scoreboard ticking very early on and tries to Billy McConnachie and captain Dane Phillips had the Jets up 18-0 in the blink of an eye.
Electric outside back Marmin Barba (brother of Cronulla Sharks star Ben Barba) showed why he wouldn't look out of place in an NRL uniform with line breaks followed by half-busts every time he touched the ball.
He was step quicker than anyone else on the field on Saturday and was benefitting fully from Ipswich's daring brand of football.
Cowboys squad member and Blackhawks centre Kyle Feldt arrested momentum with an intercept try followed by a bullocking four-pointer from teammate Lorenzo Ma'apu.
If North Queensland coach Paul Green was unhappy about the officiating in the Cowboys' loss on Thursday, he would have had a hernia when four players were sin-binned before half-time.
With Ipswich up 24-10 at the interval, only 11 players from each side re-joined the field and the favourites started to turn the screws.
With tries to Cowboys fringe player Kelepi Tanginoa, halfback Michael Parker-Walshe and fullback Jerome the Blackhawks soon evened things up at 28 apiece.
Robert Lui made the go-ahead play with a penalty goal from in front of the sticks, and sealed the deal when he sped right and burned halfback Phillips.
After the game Blackhawks coach Kristian Woolf said the day could not have been any better for both his club and the Charters Towers locals.
"We see this as part of our area or part of our home and I thought the crowd really got behind the game and got behind us," Woolf said.
"Everything about the Country Weekend and coming to Charters Towers has been terrific. We'd love to play a game out here again and we'd love to see games taken to our other regions like Ingham and the Burdekin as well.
"It's a good facility here, a good feel and the lighting is good. There's nothing like footy in the country. It brings a good atmosphere and we're really looking forward to hanging around and having a beer with the locals."
Townsville & District Blackhawks 36 (Kyle Feldt 2, Lorenzo Ma'afu, Kelepi Tanginoa, Michael Parker-Walshe, Jerome Hughes, Robert Lui tries; Kyle Feldt 2 goals, Robert Lui 2 goals) def Ipswich Jets 28 (Carlin Anderson, Billy McConnachie, Dane Phillips, Marmin Barba tries; Carlin Anderson six goals) Half-time: Ipswich 24-10.