A hat-trick of tries from iSelect Titans-contracted winger Kalifa Faifai Loa has steered the Tweed Heads Seagulls to an impressive 29-26 victory over Intrust Super Cup front-runners the Northern Pride at Piggabeen on Sunday.
And in other news from the match, Titans’ young prop Caleb Binge made a return from a shoulder injury from the bench in his first hit-out for 2014.
The victory took the Seagulls into fifth position, equal on points with Burleigh Bears who had the bye during the weekend.
Faifai Loa scored all three of his tries in the first half as the Seagulls stunned the more fancied Pride team by taking a 22-4 lead into half-time.
Faifai Loa’s third try in the 40th minute was arguably the defining moment of the match. It came just moments after the Pride’s Davin Crampton had a try disallowed by the video referee for an obstruction.
But there could be no denying the sheer brilliance of the Tweed’s stunning long range effort in the final play of the first half.
Following a Damian Sironen offload, the ball was swept through the hands of Matt King, Cory Blair, Jamal Fogarty and Sam Irwin, who delivered a long ball out to a gleeful Faifai Loa.
It capped off a forgettable opening 40 minutes for the Pride, whose only moment of joy came in the opening exchanges when a delightful pass from Justin Castellaro paved the way for a Semi Tadulua try and an early 4-0 lead.
The northerners came out breathing fire in the second half, with a powerful run from Ben Spina resulting in a try under the posts.
The Pride were full of running at this stage and when a clever kick from Shaun Nona found an unmarked Tadulala, the Pride had suddenly cut the Tweed’s lead to 22-16.
But the Seagulls regained their composure and pushed their advantage back out beyond a converted try when Tom Merritt showed a blistering turn of foot to score after brilliant lead up work from Blair, Ben Ridge and Blake Anderson.
A Michael Burgess field goal iced the win, although the Pride dampened the home team’s celebrations a little with late tries from Kyle Feldt and Crampton.
Titans forward Ben Ridge also returned from injury, off the bench. Not surprisingly, Faifai Loa was named XXXX man of the match.
TWEED HEADS SEAGULLS 29 (Kalifa Faifai Loa 3, Tom Merritt, Cory Blair tries; Blake Anderson 4 goals; Michael Burgess field goal) def NORTHERN PRIDE 26 (Semi Tadulala 2, Davin Crampton, Kyle Feldt, Ben Spina tries; Kyle Feldt 3 goals) at Piggabeen Sports.
Tweed Heads Seagulls: 1. Jamal Fogarty 2. Kalifa Faifai Loa 3. Luke Dumas 4. Blake Anderson 5. Tom Merritt 6. Sam Irwin 7. Michael Burges 8. Damian Sironen 9. Matt King (c) 10. Pele Peletelese 11. Cody Nelson 12. Cory Blair 13. Tom Kingston 14. Ben Ridge 15. Sam Saville 17. Reg Saunders 18. Caleb Binge
Northern Pride: 1. Davin Crampton 22. Semi Tadulala 3. Brett Anderson (c) 4. Jared Allen 5. Kyle Feldt 19. Shaun Nona 7. Sam Obst 20. Ricky Thorby 18. Justin Castellaro 10. Alex Starmer 11. Jack Svendsen 12. Tyrone McCarthy 13. Ben Spina 14. Ryan Ghietti 15. Blake Leary 16. Joel Riethmuller 17. Sheldon Powe-Hobbs