Neil Cadigan, Tweed Heads Seagulls media
The Campbell Construction Co. Tweed Heads Seagulls certainly ‘won ugly’ against Northern Pride in driving intermittent rain and a howling southerly at Tugun on Sunday but it was a ground-out victory that Ben Woolf’s side can build their season on.
With a new halves pairing in Will Brimson and Blake Goodman and players having to play out of position because of injuries, the Seagull struggled for an hour to create any momentum or extended cohesion. Yet they were able to hang in until utility Kody Parsons twisted over the line to break a 10-all deadlock six minutes from full-time to give the Gulls a 16-10 season-opening win.
The Pride dominated physically and territorially despite running into the big wind in the first half. They scored from their first set of possession through Cowboys half Jake Clifford who was the most influential player in the first half. Not only did his game management and kicking game lead the way, he set the tempo in the Pride defensive line and pulled off some decisive tackles.
They led 10-8 at half-time but, like the Seagulls in the first 40 minutes, were not able to take advantage of the southerly howler that was too strong for contained ball control or kicking. Both sides failed to hold the ball regularly as rain set in, and a Lindon McGrady penalty goal was the only score for 50 minutes – from the 26th to the 76th when Parsons crashed over from a right-side shift.
Parson bounced out of a three-man tackle, stepped inside and twisted backwards over the line – gaining the right side of what must have been a 50-50 decision on a double movement. The try was awarded and coach Ben Woolf breathed a sigh of relief with a vital victory in the match that was relocated from Piggabeen Sports Complex because of recent rain.
With the Gulls’ Auswide Mal Meninga Cup and Hastings Deering Colts recording convincing victories, it was the momentum the home side needed with last year’s players’ player Talor Walters (injury) and player of the year (and skipper) John Palavi (suspension) watching from the sideline.
“Sure it was clunky and I don’t think either side what they are capable of attacking-wise because of the conditions,” said Woolf.
“But I was proud of the way we hung in and particularly how we defended our line in the second half. I was disappointed with our first half; I think the Pride were running harder and doing a better job tackling and beat us in every aspect in the first 40. We seemed to be defending our line and made too many errors in yardage.
“We copped a few injuries and which meant we had to our whole middle out, except for Bayley Faull. But we hung in there and toughed out a victory in the end.
“The wind was very tricky and spoiled the game a little bit; they really were difficult conditions. It was hard to build momentum with the wind picking up so many passes and affected the kicking game.
“Kody’s try was a great effort. We didn’t throw much shape at them for a long while. He did a good job to bounce off them when they jammed him and had enough determination to get over the line.”
Clifford crossed for the Pride in just the second minute when he grubber to the left bounced awkwardly and winger Bernard Lewis gained possession and gave Clifford a clear run to the line for 6-0.
The Seagulls struck back quickly though. After hooker Brent Woolf was stripped of the ball over the line after darting into the in-goal from dummy half, right centre Fetuli Talanoa scored with his first touch for the club. The two-time English Challenge Cup winner with Hull received a good lofted pass from Lindon McGrady to give him give him a 10-metre clear run to the tryline to make it 6-4.
The Pride were next to score after gaining possession in rather bizarre circumstances. Faced with a line-drop-out into a southerly gale flying across the open space of Gold Coast airport that adjoins the field, the ball travelled over the 10m-line in the air but was caught by the Pride on their tryline.
After smartly working play upfield left centre Connelly Lemeule crashed over from an inside switch play close to the line top give the visitors a 10-4 lead after 15 minutes.
The Seagulls brought the Pride’s lead back to two points 14 minutes before the break through left centre Lee Turner after good lead up work by Lamar Liolevave who had a strong game. However, Northern Pride took a 10-8 lead into half-time.
Northern Pride failed to take advantage of their continued momentum early in the second half and, into the gale, Tweed only found their way into Pride’s red zone twice in the first 25 minutes of the second session before they were able to throw some shape at the Pride defensive and build some pressure.
They elected to take a penalty kick at goal in the 64th minute to draw level at 10-all before Parsons sealed the victory.
The forward battle was physical with players often coming up with spilled possession with the wet ball in tackles as Josh Stuckey and interchange big men Joe Elchner and Brad Lupi served it up to the Gulls pack. But they were up to the task in the second session – with props Rory Lillis, Stuart Mason and leading the way.
TWEED HEADS SEAGULLS 16 (F Talanoa, L Turner, K Parsons tries; McGrady 2 goals) def. NORTHERN PRIDE 10 (J Clifford, C Lemeule tries; Clifford goal) at Tugun RLFC Grounds.