The Sunshine Coast Falcons gained a piece of history with a 36-0 victory at Piggabeen Sports Complex today and gave the Tweed Heads Seagulls a telling lesson about what is needed to compete at the highest level in the Intrust Super Cup.
A six-try first-half blitz by an almost faultless Falcons set up their 13th straight victory as the Seagulls, coming off five successive victories, could not keep pace with defensive line speed, aggressive tackling and precision in their attack that earned Sunshine Coast a 30-0 at half-time lead.
After going head-to-toe with the competition leaders in the first few minutes, the Seagulls gave their rivals too much cheap possession through errors and penalties and were never able to recover from the momentum it gave the Falcons.
The Seagulls squandered attacking position through rushed or ill-directed passes in the first 20 minutes while the Falcons were slick in converting their opportunities. The result was that, within half an hour, the game had been taken away from the home side.
While Gulls coach Ben Woolf would have been happy with the much-improved defensive effort in the second half, his Falcons rival Eric Smith would have rued the change in efficiency of his side. They turned the ball over five times in the first 20 minutes of the second session but Tweed were not able to mount enough pressure to take advantage.
The only score of the second half came in the 66th minute when Siti Moceidreke crossed for a converted try from a brilliant kick-return counter-attack by fullback Nathan McGavin, a controversial try with the Seagulls officials on the bench remonstrating that Moceidreke’s boot had crossed the touchline.
The damage had been done in the first 40 minutes, however, as the Falcons were simply a class above the Seagulls in the execution in attack and pack-like defence. They spent most of the half in Tweed’s half and almost every time they pressed the tryline, they converted to points – with their first three tries coming from running the ball on their last play.
Halves Cooper and Johns and Todd Murphy brilliantly took advantage of the pack in front of them on the back of a dominance of possession. A flop-back pass that went to a Tweed hand from centre Justin Olam, who scored a hat-trick of first half tries, was their only error in the first session.
“We turned over too much ball and weren’t tough enough in defence and tried to score points without being willing to tough it out and earn the right to score,” said Woolf.
“Poor passing let us down and we were poor defensively in the first half when we were on our own line.
“Sure, the Falcons played with a lot of intensity and were relentless, and they gave us nothing with hardly making an error in the first half – that’s what they’re good at.
“But we just weren’t good enough and it was a good wake-up call for us after a couple of easy wins.
“If we want to be a top four side, we have to really step up.”
The Falcons’ first try came in the seventh minute when a sharp pass from Murphy put Chris Lewis over the line from short range. Only seven minutes later it was Olam’s turn when he showed much more determination and anticipation than Tweed’s right edge when he squeezed between defenders to pounce on a Johns’ grubber to the in-goal.
Murphy stepped too easily between Tweed’s Christian Hazard and Lamar Liolevave from short range on the right, again on the last tackle, in the 19th minutes to take the score to 16-0 with Murphy’s second conversion.
Although they aggressively hunted up defensively further downfield, the Seagulls were shell-shocked by the Falcons’ relentless intensity by this time and looked powerless to slow down the ruck while making too many errors with the ball to stem the tide.
It was a lesson in what life is like at the top of the Intrust Super Cup.
The Falcons’ scoring continued when winger Sandor Earl scored in the left corner after a show-and-go from Johns and a good ball from Olam gave him a clear 10m run to the line.
Olam scored his second on the half-hour from a quick-hands shift to the left and great no-look pass from McGavin. He brought up his hat-trick two minutes before the break after the Falcons forwards again rolled downfield and hooker Harry Grant dummied right but went left to Johns whose great catch and pass put Olam over.
Sunshine Coast’s 13 straight wins to start the season equals the Intrust Super Cup record held by, ironically, Tweed Heads in 2011.
The Seagulls, with skipper Cheyne Whitelaw leading the way by refusing to surrender with his aggressive defence and willingness to push forward with the ball, deserve credit for refusing to capitulate in the second half.
However, they will walk away from the game knowing there is too big a gap between their best and worse performances this year – and they must offer more in successive games against Wynnum Manly (second on the ladder) and Burleigh Bears (third) after taking on PNG Hunters in Port Moresby and Townsville Blackhawks at home in the next two rounds.
Sunshine Coast Falcons 36 (J Olam 3, C Lewis, T Murphy, S Earl, S Moceidreke tries; Murphy 4 goals) def. Tweed Heads Seagulls 0.
Couple of errors with ball early by Tweed costly.
7 min – smart pass on last to right to Lewis from short range after Faasuamaleaui held up three tackles earlier on the left. 4-0
14 min – Johns good grubber on the left and Olam showed most urgency to get through and first to the ball. Murphy goal. 10-0
Kicked out on the full.
19 min – Murphy try. Ran the ball on the last instead of kicking and stepped too easily between Hazard and Liolevave. Murphy goal. 16-0
Despite getting couple of repeat sets Seagulls too many errors while Falcons great shape and composure on Seagulls’ line.
27 min – Earl try, Johns show and go on left edge to Olam, good ball to Earl with overlap, started 12m out. 20-0
31 – Faasuamaleaui broke through from halfway, Taylor brought down when went to right and bombed try, Taylor 10 mins. Loose Olam pass gave up possession.
34 – Olam try, after penalty for hands in ruck.
Ruthless first half with just one error with ball (Olam pass) but gave up possession four times in first 16 minutes of second half. 5 times in 20 mins.
66 – Moceidreke try – counter-attack after Seiuli kick, good ball Taylor to Olam to Moceidreke but foot on touchline, but touch judge ruled play on to the protests of Seagulls coaching staff on sideline. Murphy goal. 36-0