Blackhawks into Intrust Super Cup decider
The Townsville Blackhawks are through to the Intrust Super Cup grand final in their inaugural season thanks to a four-try feast from Zac Santo in their 26-12 win over the PNG Hunters at a raucous Jack Manski Oval on Saturday.
It was the loudest Blackhawks home game all year, but there was more than a share of support for the visiting crew who infiltrated the Townsville venue with an army dispersed throughout, flying flags and banners all evening.
While Santo claimed the glory, it started at the engine room where a Townsville pack minus front-row stars Ricky Thorby and captain Daniel Beasley overpowered the regularly-ruthless Hunters middle for the first time this year.
Cowboys squad member and five-eighth Robert Lui outpointed Intrust Super Cup Five-eighth of the Year Israel Eliab, pulling the strings with ball in hand while Halfback of the Year Michael Parker-Walsche was the architect.
But Man of the Match was arguably zippy hooker Anthony Mitchell who had the middle on lockdown, slashing the Hunters' pack open and keeping them on the back foot time after time.
The Blackhawks made a mockery of a sporadic and nervy PNG pack, but Townsville coach Kristian Woolf predicts he hasn't seen the last of them this season.
"I would (expect to see them in the grand final). I think they're a terrific footy side," Woolf said.
"I wish them all the best next week and I certainly hope they come through. We'd love to play them again in the final and I think it'd be great for the competition to have the two newcomers and two of the northernmost posts playing in a grand final.
"It's certainly a good look for what is a Queensland-wide competition."
Santo showed his blistering pace to bag his two first-half tries in the first 10 minutes from identical plays via centre Mosese Pangai, but PNG was next in when dancing halfback Adex Wera put winger Ase Boas over in the right corner.
Santo had his third off Pangai 10 minutes into the second half while his fourth landed in his lap, picking up the scraps off a high ball close to the line.
PNG's second try came through some nifty footwork at the line from Adam Korave, but as the sun went down the Blackhawks got stronger to deny a Hunters side who momentarily had their tails up after Korave's try brought them within six points 23 minutes from time.
Pangai put the finishing touches on the contest with a 75th-minute try, but the fatal blow had been struck midway through the half.
PNG next week faces the winner of Sunday's Ipswich Jets-Easts Tigers clash, while the Blackhawks get a pass straight to the grand final.
Townsville Blackhawks 26 (Zac Santo 4, Tom Humble, Mosese Pangai; Robert Lui goal) def PNG Hunters 12 (Adex Wera, Adam Korave tries; Noel Zeming 2 goals) at Jack Manski Oval, Townsville.