The Ben Campbell Building Group Tweed Heads Seagulls put in their best performance since their five-straight winning run in rounds 8-12, beating Easts Tigers 38-18 at Piggabeen Sports Complex and placing the bonus of a home semi-final squarely in their own hands.
The Seagulls leapt to a 16-0 lead after just 13 minutes with three tries and were 22-0 ahead before the Tigers struck back with two tries in the last five minutes of the first half to go into the break 22-12 behind.
At 28-18 the game was in the balance before Tweed again took control and ran away with the game to put their points differential back into the positive, with winger Talor Walters picking up three tries.
“That was a lot better performance than last week (an away victory at Ipswich), especially how we physically dominated early and created good scoring opportunities,” said Seagulls coach Ben Woolf.
“With props John Palavi and Leilani Latu, and hooker Christian Hazard, leading up front early, it was a very good opening 20 minutes.
“We got into the grind well and our kick and chase were effective and that set a good platform.
“We let them back into the match with a couple errors and penalties (five straight) that gave them a lot of possession but I was really happy with how we got back on top at 28-18.
“It’s up to us now to continue that form and win out last two games and set up a home semi-final, which is looking like it will be against the [Redcliffe] Dolphins would have struck some form.”
The Tweed victory, their third from their past four games and second against Easts this season, confirmed their first finals appearance since 2014 but they are determined not to finish below sixth.
It took just three minutes for the Seagulls to cross the tryline through lock Kalani Going when Latu fed him a good ball close to the line after Tweed ran the ball on the last tackle. Only four minutes later Walters picked up his first try after a long shift and it was the 11th minute when centre Kody Parsons crossed after receiving a good ball from fullback Lindon McGrady in a set play from a scrum.
Back-rower Ioane Seuili made it four Tweed tries in the first half-hour when five-eighth Ash Taylor, who again played with confidence, picked him up with a smart pass at the line inside the Seagulls’ half and Seuili beat Tigers fullback Matt Cooper one-on-one. McLindon’s easy conversion made it 22-0.
Easts put themselves back in the match when, after a run of possession from five successive sets with the ball, second-rower John Puna got through on an edge in the 35th minute. Soon after Tigers halfback Josh Fauid went down a short side, dummied and gave centre Isaac Lumelume a run to the line. Billy Walters converted both tries to have Easts just 10 points in arrears at the break.
McGrady ensured the momentum switched back to the home side early in the second half when he latched onto a Taylor bomb that was spilled by Cooper at the end of Tweed’s first set of the half. When former Warriors gun and Tongan international Solomone Kata crashed over from dummy half to make it 28-18, the healthy crowd was certainly nervous just a fortnight after the Seagulls surrendered a 12-6 lead against the Cutters at Piggabeen to go down 30-16.
However, Walters– making a good fist on the wing after McLindon was switched to the back from five-eighth in recent weeks – crossed twice more, both times showing his genuine class and evasive skills that saw him regarded as one of the most dangerous fullbacks in the competition earlier in the season.
Walters took his try-scoring tally to 10 this season, including five in the past four games, through his ability to do something with limited space because of his light feet, balance and strength.
The Seagulls head to Davies Park to take on Souths Logan, who pose as a danger team, next Sunday before finishing against Northern Pride at home.
Easts have certainly hit a lull, gaining only one competition point in their past five clashes – from a 38-all draw against the Hunters in PNG. Although they are assured of at least eighth spot, they need to find some confidence in their remaining two matches against Northern Pride (away) and Townsville Blackhawks (home).
Tweed Heads Seagulls 38 (T Walters 3, K Going, K Parsons, L McGrady, I Seiuli tries; McGrady 5 goals) def. Easts Tigers 18 (J Puna, I Lumelume, S Kata tries; B Walters 3 goals) at Piggabeen Sports Complex.