iSelect Gold Coast Titans contracted player Mark Ioane continues to keep the pressure on the in-form NRL front row with a man of the match performances for the Burleigh Bears in their 20-14 victory against the North Queensland Cowboys’ feeder team, Mackay Cutters, at Pizzey Park yesterday.

In a nail biting contest that went down to the last play, the Bears managed to defend their line gallantly in the dying stages while Mackay failed to capitalise on their chances.

Ioane was superb for Burleigh and was rewarded with the XXXX Man of the Match award.

“He was outstanding,” Bears coach Carl Briggs said. “His work rate was superb: 30-odd tackles, 20-odd hit ups, he played 40 minutes straight. Sometimes as a coach you hit the 25-minute mark and think of changing him, but he was just as strong in the back end of that half as he was at the start and he was causing Mackay all sorts of trouble.”

“There have been times this year, and last year, where we wouldn’t have won that game. It was a great test of character and I think we’ve turned a corner with that performance.

“I don’t know how many sets Mackay had on our line or in our 20, but that’s an area of our game that I’ve been critical of recently, and in the last few weeks there’s been a marked improvement.”

Burleigh got away to a flying start when Matt Keating, who was a big contributor in his first game since round four, put a deft grubber kick into the in goal leading to a Henare Wells try.

The Cutters hit back soon after through Curtis Rona followed by a try to Chris Ulugia.

Neither try was converted but a barnstorming run by Cowboys back-rower Glenn Hall, in which he ran over the top of three Burleigh defenders, saw the visitors stretch their lead to eight points.

On the stroke of half-time Ryley Jacks, playing in his third Intrust Super Cup game for the Bears, crossed from close range to cut the margin to just four at the break.

The second half was a hard slog for both sides as the rain continued to come down steadily. A try out of dummy half to Keating saw the Bears regain the lead with a quarter of the game remaining.

Much of the game was played on the Burleigh line and the Cutters went close on a number of occasions, only to fall short each time.

Another dummy-half try in the dying seconds, this time to Nafe Seluini, sealed the 20-14 win for the Bears.

Meanwhile, the PNG Hunters returned to the winner’s circle with a 36-26 victory over Tweed Heads Seagulls at Kalabond Oval, Kokopo.

After three games without a win – although one was a 20-20 draw against the Easts Tigers – the Hunters basked in celebration mode once again.

There were periods of the game where the Hunters dug themselves into a tight corner with uncharacteristic errors which Tweed Heads capitalised on to put the heat back on the home side.

Such was the case when despite opening up a handy 12-0 lead with tries through prop Timothy Lomai and halfback Roger Laka in the first quarter of the first half, the Hunters drifted off their game plan.

To their credit the Seagulls orchestrated some smart play using their experienced men with tries to five-eighth Michael Burgess and winger Kalifa Faifai Loa to claw their way back. 

A penalty goal to Jamal Fogarty locked the game up at 12-12 before Faifai Loa celebrated with a double putting his NRL experience to great use as he mesmerized his opposite George Benson.  He picked up his second, an unconverted try in the opening minutes of the second half to put the Seagulls in front for the first time 16-12 and start the short period of see-saw for the lead.

Hunters’ hooker Wartovo Puara wrestled the advantage off the visitors, a try which interchange player Noel Zeming converted for 18-16 before centre Luke Dumas put the Seagulls back in the lead 20-18.

When “super sub” Willie Minoga powered over using brute strength to score and put the Hunters in front 22-20 the home side stepped up another gear in both attack and defence, which the Seagulls couldn’t match.

The Seagulls reduced the deficit in the dying minutes of the game with a consolation try but it made little difference as the two competition points were already safely locked away.

BURLEIGH BEARS 20 (Henare Wells, Ryley Jacks, Matt Keating, Nafe Seluini tries Khan Ahwang 3 goals) def MACKAY CUTTERS 14 (Curtis Rona, Chris Ulugia, Glenn Hall tries Liam Taylor goal) at Pizzey Park.

PNG HUNTERS 36 (Israel Eliab, Roger Laka, Timothy Lomai, Wartovo Puara, Gonzela Urakusie, Willie Minoga tries; Noel Zemming 4, Roger Laka 2 goals) def TWEED HEADS SEAGULLS 26(Kalifa Faifai Loa 2, Luke Dumas, Michael Burgess, Matt King tries; Jamal Fogarty, Blake Anderson, Cody Nelson goals) at Kalabond Oval, Kokopo.