Cullen sparks Burleigh to Intrust Super Cup title
Manly-bound Cameron Cullen has delivered a brilliant performance to break Burleigh's decade-long title drought and set up an Intrust Super Championship clash with the New South Wales winners after the Bears defeated Redcliffe 26-16 at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday.
Twice Burleigh opened up a 10-point lead over the Dolphins but a try from late Redcliffe inclusion Darren Nicholls 16 minutes into the second half narrowed the margin to just four points.
The two teams were locked in a tense duel for the next 10 minutes as the Dolphins looked for the go-ahead try but it was Cullen who capped a brilliant individual display with a try in the 70th minute that would ultimately seal their second Intrust Super Cup title.
Although Cullen was able to take advantage of a tiring defence late he challenged Redcliffe from the opening minutes of the match, laying on two tries for fullback Kurtis Rowe and having a hand in Sami Sauiluma's second-half four-pointer.
Nicholls and Broncos winger Jonus Pearson were important late inclusions for Redcliffe but it was Cullen and future Parramatta Eel Jamal Fogarty who not only put on the points but controlled the closing stages perfectly.
Burleigh's big men seemed to be wilting somewhat in the Brisbane heat to start the second term – Redcliffe centre Daniel Randall spilling a Zach Strasser bomb on the Bears' try-line – but Burleigh was first to score again, this time through Sami Sauiluma.
The combination of Cullen and Rowe down the left edge again pulled the Redcliffe defence enough to give the rampaging Sauiluma just enough to space to force his way over inside the left corner post and a 20-10 lead after 50 minutes.
Ruled out on Tuesday by Dolphins coach Adam Mogg with a quadriceps tear, Darren Nicholls had enough confidence to push off his right leg to challenge the Burleigh defence 17 minutes into the second half, slicing through to score to the right of the posts and then landing the conversion.
Cullen's left-foot step then exposed a tiring Redcliffe defence 12 minutes from full-time, slicing through between Aaron Whitchurch and Nicholls to extend Burleigh's lead to eight points, Jamal Fogarty putting them out by 10 points with eight to play with a successful conversion from wide out.
Burleigh had the better of the opening 10 minutes in terms of territory and possession and eventually came up with points after 12 minutes.
A shift to the left on halfway saw Cameron Cullen go to the line and put fullback Kurtis Rowe through a hole 40 metres out from the Redcliffe line and had too much pace for the cover defence to score his 19th try of the year.
An error from Burleigh back-rower Lachlan Burr from the next set invited Redcliffe to attack the Bears' try-line and after receiving a ruck penalty on the goal-line hit back through rookie of the year Jonus Pearson after terrific lead-up work from first Aaron Whitchurch and then Joseph Bradley.
They threatened to double their try tally from the set after points when Jack Ahearn sent Daniel Randall on a 40-metre run inside Burleigh territory but crunching tackles from Jamie Dowling and Sami Sauiluma ended the Dolphins momentum before they could do more damage on the scoreboard.
A penalty for a dangerous tackle on Sauiluma 40 metres out from their own line allowed Burleigh back into Redcliffe's half and again it was the combination of Cullen and Rowe that split the Dolphins defence, Rowe getting his second in the 22nd minute when momentum carried him only as far as the try-line.
A penalty goal to captain Jamal Fogarty pushed the Bears out to a 14-4 advantage after 27 minutes but just as the game was threatening to get away from them Tyson Cleal latched onto a Shane Pumipi grubber into the in-goal to bring the Dolphins back within four points heading into half-time.
Cullen, Fogarty, Sauiluma and Paterika Vaivai were outstanding for the victors while for Redcliffe hooker Shane Pumipi, prop Charlie Faingaa and a brave Nicholls were their best.
Burleigh Bears 26 (Kurtis Rowe 2, Sami Sauiluma, Cameron Cullen tries; Jamal Fogarty 5 goals) def. Redcliffe Dolphins 16 (Jonus Pearson, Tyson Cleal, Darren Nicholls tries; Darren Nicholls 2 goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Half-time: Burleigh 14-10. Fogs Colts Challenge: Wynnum Manly 34 def. Easts Tigers 12.