A North versus South civil war erupted on the last Sunday in September as the Ipswich Jets battled out 80 minutes of rugby league warfare against the Townsville Blackhawks at Suncorp Stadium, with the Jets surviving the northern onslaught, winning the match 32 points to 20, and taking out their first premiership in 33 years.
Even though Townsville were the minor premiers and firm favourites to take out the Intrust Super Cup Grand Final they didn’t count on the tactics of the Ipswich Jets. Jets players ran sideways, they circled the opposition, looking, probing for a break in the Blackhawks line. The Jets also attacked and defended fiercely, taking massive hits from the much bigger Townsville forwards and attacking the line at every opportunity.
The Jets lost seven games during the regular season but created their own momentum, winning all three knockout finals leading into the Grand Final. This obviously gave the players the belief that whatever team confronted them, they could beat them.
Things didn’t start all that well for the Jets, with the Blackhawks’ centre Tom Humble charging through from close range to open up a 4-0 lead after just three minutes, and in the first 15 minutes the Jets looked nervous and on the back foot, as the Blackhawks spent most time in their territory.
One of the hallmarks of the Jets’ season has been the ability to break away from their own half and make penetrating runs into enemy territory. As the pressure mounted on the Jets in their own half the flying Fijian Nemani Valekapa skipped across field and put Marmin Barba in the clear and he raced down the left touchline. Barba was held up five metres short but managed an overhead pass to Dane Phillips to score out wide.
The Jets were off and running, helped by a wayward Blackhawks pass infield minutes later, only to find Barba in the right spot at the right time to ground the ball in goal for his 30th try of the season. The conversion made it 12-4 after 20 minutes and what followed was a period of strong hit-ups and torrid defence as both teams tried to gain the physical ascendency, before quick hands along the Blackhawks backline put Zac Santo over for a try.
Ipswich fans gasped seven minutes from half time when one of their stars, Kurt Capewell, sustained an ankle injury and retired injured and played no further part in the game.
The pressure mounted on both teams but it was the Blackhawks who fumbled close to their own line just before half-time. In a set move from the ensuing scrum, Carlin Anderson sliced through the defensive line at blistering speed to set up a 16-8 scoreline at the break.
The Blackhawks needed to score next in the second half but when Keiron Lander scored from a Dane Phillips’ grubber kick the road back in the slippery conditions became a tough assignment.
The second half tested both teams’ resolve to battle it out to the end, with tries to the ‘Fijian Ferrari’ (Nemani Valekapa), Marmin Barba, and Blackhawks’ Jahrome Hughes. An excellent try by Blackhawks Robert Lui off his own kick set up a down-to-the-wire finish with a 26-20 scoreline in the 74th minute.
The Jets held out spirited attacks in the final minutes, but a Blackhawks’ fumble close to their own line allowed Matt Parcell to streak away and score with seconds to go. The Jets were home 32-20 with the conversion by retiring Captain Keiron Lander after the siren.
Billy McConnachie was named winner of the Duncan Hall Medal.