The Tweed Seagulls bounced back from a slow start to take a second-half lead in Round 1 before falling late to the Brisbane Tigers 20-16 at the Piggabeen Sports Complex.
Sam McIntyre, JJ Collins and Lindon McGrady played leading roles in an encouraging performance that will lead the side well into their Round 2 match against the Sunshine Coast Falcons next Sunday.
The Tigers were into their work early in this one through veteran half Darren Nicholls. The 32-year-old showed all of his NRL and reserve grade experience as he passed the Tigers through their opening sets, ending with a pin-point grubber to BJ Aufaga-Toomaga in the right corner in just the second minute.
But Tweed didn’t take long to respond. Conceding the early try provided a shot in the arm as Collins dominated the centre third alongside Braden Robson who was held up over the line ten minutes in. Unfortunately for the Seagulls, it was Nicholls and all of his experience shortly after providing a touch of class at the other end as he spotted the numbers advantage on the short side before Nick Meaney completed the pass for Aufaga-Toomaga to score an 11-minute double.
The Seagulls weren’t without promising moments in the first half, though.
Tanah Boyd’s combination with Paul Turner on the left side developed as the half progressed with a forward pass cancelling out the Seagulls' first try of the season. The right side, however, soon chimed in with some nice shape of their own.
In Robson and McIntyre, the Seagulls are flushed with ball playing options through the middle. It’s McIntyre in this instance who gets the interest of three Tigers defenders as he digs into the line, creating the space out wide for Tweed to find Sosefa Fifita in the corner.
McGrady does a nice job to skip around his man and straighten things up and Scott Galeano produces a lovely catch-and-pass for Fifita on the paint.
Provided with an opportunity to level the scores or steal a half-time lead following Nick Meaney’s sin-bin for dissent, Brisbane five-eighth Jayden Nikorima instead plucked a long ball out of the air and raced 90 metres to give the Tigers a 14-4 lead at the break.
Match: Seagulls v Tigers
Round 1 -
Venue: Piggabeen Sports Complex, Tweed Heads
Having identified an opportunity down the right edge, the Seagulls wasted no time going back there in the second half.
It’s Robson this time straightening up the attack from first-receiver and allowing Boyd and McGrady to go to work out wide. McGrady puts Galeano down the touchline and with multiple Seagulls in support, Galeano stands up the Tigers’ fullback and gets Tweed to within four points.
It’s very similar to Fifita's earlier try and this repeat action - featuring different players and from different areas on the field - is a promising sign for Tweed as their attack develops into the season.
As the game entered into an arm-wrestle, both sides were guilty of errors you’d expect in the first game of the year. Still, the Seagulls’ ruck speed went to a different level when Collins was reintroduced in the second half.
The referee was forced to demand the Tigers markers stay up at the ruck as they looked for shortcuts back into the line. Tweed’s dominance through the middle swung momentum in their favour heading into the last quarter.
However, despite the go-forward through the middle and period with the ball inside the 20-metre line, it was the Tigers who crossed next. Making the most of his touches with the line in sight, Aufaga-Toomaga’s third gave the Tigers a 20-16 lead in the 72nd minute - one they wouldn’t relinquish.
Key points from Round 1
- Sam McIntyre showed his class throughout. Coach Ben Woolf talked about his importance during the week as the only Gold Coast Titans-contracted player to have featured for the club and the 23-year-old stood out with his ball-playing from first receiver particularly effective when Tweed looked to play wide
- Braden Robson was also instrumental in how the Seagulls moved the ball in attack. He was an effective yardage man through the middle but looked at his best when digging into the line and playing out the back. With the ball out in front, Robson constantly forced the defence to compress before playing out the back to Lindon McGrady down the right edge. Between him and McIntyre, Tweed have two players who can create opportunities on the edges and free up the halves in attack
- Paul Turner didn’t see the ball in attacking areas quite as much as he would have liked but showed a few glimpses of what he’s capable of with the ball. He looked comfortable when linking up with Tanah Boyd on the left edge and his ability to break the line was evident against a tired Tigers defence just before halftime
- There was an uptick through the middle any time JJ Collins took a carry. He set a standard with his ball-carrying early before showing what he can do with his passing game later in the match. However, it was his footwork in his second stint that created a line break that put the Seagulls into attacking territory. Unable to make the most of his break on this occasion, the signs are encouraging for another strong season from the 26-year-old
Tweed coach Ben Woolf spoke about the effort areas earlier in the week, but felt his team could still improve in that regard.
“I’m a little disappointed in our effort areas,” Woolf said.
“I think we can be better in defence - getting onside more quickly, not giving away penalties at key moments. And in attack I thought we needed a little more energy. There was a chance just before halftime to break them down but we couldn’t get into position fast enough.”
The influence of Robson and McIntyre was telling through the middle of the field and Woolf said he is looking forward to seeing those combinations develop.
“We like to use the ball, so having guys like Braden and Macca in there suits our style of play,” Woolf said.
“They get our ball carriers on the front foot and give us a few more options in attack. That’ll all get smoother as the season goes on and once we’ve had those guys at training a bit more. We hung in there.”
The Seagulls will face Sunshine Coast Falcons in Round 2.
Match: Seagulls v Falcons
Round 2 -
Venue: Piggabeen Sports Complex, Tweed Heads
The Tigers will play Souths Logan Magpies.
Match: Magpies v Tigers
Round 2 -
Venue: Marsden State High School, Brisbane
* Article by RugbyLeagueWriters.com on behalf of Tweed Seagulls Media