Colleen Edwards, QRL media
The Tweed Seagulls put in an attacking masterclass in the National Under 18 Championship match against the Illawarra Steelers, running in eight tries in total to claim a 48-14 win.
While they sealed the victory with some flashy displays across both halves; it was set up by a gritty showing in the first half where they had to earn the ball and pressured the Steelers into errors and frustration.
While the NSW SG Ball winners were obviously down on their usual high standard; the Seagulls were on song and hardly put a foot wrong through the entire 70-minute performance.
Things started well for the black-and-white team, with towering centre Xavier Coates getting the scoring started in the 28th minute with a nice looking try. A pinpoint kick from halfback Toby Sexton found his man in space who just had to reach up and pluck the ball from the air and ran in untouched.
The Steelers were next to score after some back-and-forth from the two teams, but it was winger Tyrell Sloan who was over for the visitors after they had mounted some pressure on Tweed who had made some errors and given up a penalty.
But the half belonged to the Seagulls with Caleb Hodges running in just before halftime to put his side out to an important 18-4 lead.
In the second half, the Seagulls began as they ended the first, with another try.
Coates had his second – this time though, he to work hard for it, getting the ball within the Gulls’ 10m area and running a zigzag path through defenders to go the length of the field to score.
While the Steelers were able to score two more times (a second to Sloan and one to winger Max Feagai) – they were merely interruptions in the steady stream of scores that came for the on-fire Tweed.
Impressive fullback Reece Walsh was over for a double, while Josh Bevan also got in on the action with a four pointer.
Fittingly, the final try of the game came via halfback and eventual player of the match Sexton, who ran in under the goal points to put an exclamation mark on a dominant performance for his side.
Sexton was instrumental for his side, setting up key plays with his vision and great kicking game.
After the match, coach Tim Maccan praised his side’s performance.
“It was fantastic, definitely their best win of the season – they stuck to the game plan for the whole game and got the job done,” Maccan said.
“We knew we had to stick with them in that first half there and the rewards would come if we were patient and persistent with it and that’s showed in the back end of the second half.
“We have been building and we have some very good individual players and it was about us trying to work out the best way to turn them into a very good team and how to use those strengths across the team.
“Our starting front rowers Ben Liyou and Solomon Torrens, kids that some people haven’t heard of, they are great kids and showed that they are quality front rowers.
“We have guys on the bench like James Torrens and Issy Higgins – he’s only 17 – but they have been doing a really good job, so of those lesser known players have really stepped up.”
The Seagulls are the first QRL winner to go on and win the Under 18 national final since in 2014 when Townsville beat the Roosters.
Player of the Match: Toby Sexton (Tweed Seagulls)