By Cameron Stallard
A two-try haul to Cody McIntosh and a ‘super dooper’ cameo from five-eighth Lachlan Cooper saw Brisbane claim the inaugural XXXX League Championship, defeating Toowoomba 46-26 at North Ipswich Reserve on Saturday.
The Souths Logan Magpies half, who returned from Intrust Super Cup duties to play a major role in being crowned the best league in the state, believed the win was his best in his rugby league career to date.
“It’s up pretty high,” Cooper said.
“It’s a great concept and to be state champs, you can’t get much better than that.
“It feels pretty good.”
Cooper displayed class and finesse to earn him the XXXX man of the match honour, with his key involvements in crucial tries throughout the 80 minutes, including a four-pointer of his own right on full-time, making the victory even sweeter for the 23-year-old.
“It definitely topped off the win,” Cooper said.
“Always getting over the try line is a good thing but it was a good game.
“Hats off to Toowoomba. They really gave it to us.”
Being dealt a major blow pre-game with former Queensland Rangers prop Andrew Petaia a late exclusion, the Poinsettias shrugged off the adversity with a dream start, scoring two tries in back-to-back sets to open the first encounter of its kind.
After the Clydesdales were denied a certain four-pointer through a forward pass only moments earlier, a blindside play in the eighth minute at the opposite end of the field led to Dray Ngatuere-Wroe crossing for Brisbane’s first points.
After the restart, a fourth-tackle break by fullback Connor Miller who timed his run to perfection, saw him break through and get to within 15 metres of the line before finding McIntosh on the inside for the lock forward’s first try under the post and secure a 12-0 lead after only 12 minutes.
The QRL Central representatives were able to hit back three minutes later though when a well-timed right-to-left shift saw Harrison Cooke cross to make it 12-6.
In the 22nd minute, a freakish play from David Armstrong – who stuck his foot out on a wayward pass – led to Dwayne Duncan crossing for a chance to level the contest, but his conversion attempt from the eastern sideline was waved away, leaving the 47th Battalion winners two points behind.
The Clydesdales were on a roll and when the Poinsettias spilt the ball only 30 metres from their opposition’s line, Chris Woodbridge pounced to run the length and take the lead for the first time in the afternoon.
Seven minutes from the break, ‘super sub’ Mason Trappe – who was called up on game day to replace Petaia – found a hole in a superb run, receiving a well-timed ball from Cooper to barge over and take an 18-16 lead into the sheds at half-time.
Toowoomba coach Luke Duggan’s words of wisdom at the break inspired the his players to re-take the lead five minutes in the second stanza; long-time Darling Downs five-eighth Corey McGrady linking up with Hnaloan Budden to edge in front for the second time in the clash.
But the Chairman’s Challenge champions fought back, scoring three tries in the space of 12 minutes to all but pull the curtains on Toowoomba’s hopes of putting the prestigious Clydesdales name back in lights at a state level.
McIntosh reached out under the posts to kick-start the prolific point-scoring period in the 54th minute, before Arthur Brown crossed in the corner four minutes later and then Miller added the cherries on top in the 66th minute.
Armstrong added some more magic to his highlights reel when he snatched the ball from a short-kick restart and scored to give his Clydesdales team mates hope, needing eight points in the final 10 minutes to draw level.
But Brisbane centre Henderson Godfrey put the nail on the coffin with just over five minutes remaining and captain Cooper celebrated in style with the four-pointer of his own to top off a classy performance, pushing his case to be recalled to the Souths Logan lineup after returning to the local league scene this week.
Speaking post-match, title-winning coach Wayne Barnett felt the win sat on top of his list of coaching achievements.
“Being the inaugural one this year, it’s very high in my coaching [resumé],” Barnett said.
“It’s probably the highest honour I can have. In my first year of the BRL, to be able to take the Brisbane side and progress through to the final stages against some really good competition in Toowoomba – their 12 teams up there are very strong and they brought a very strong team today.
“It rates very highly.”
Reflecting on the new XXXX League Championship competition, the former Central Comets and Rugby League Mackay coach was a big fan of the new concept and hoped to see it continue next year.
“I think the A Grade level, particularly the level under Intrust Super Cup, needs some more exposure and from our Chairman’s Challenge team, seven players have gone on to play Intrust Super Cup this year, so there’s a lot of talent running around at this level,” Barnett said.
“If we can get the right coaches in the right spaces, Queensland will look even better in the future.
“100 percent [I’d love for it to stick around next year].”
Brisbane Poinsettias 46 (Cody McIntosh 2, Dray Ngatuere-Wroe, Mason Trappe, Arthur Brown, Connor Miller, Henderson Godfrey, Lachlan Cooper tries; Lachlan Cooper 7 goals) defeated Toowoomba Clydesdales 26 (Harrison Cooke, Dwayne Duncan, Chris Woodbridge, Hnaloan Budden, David Armstrong tries; Dwayne Duncan 3 goals) at North Ipswich Reserve.