The Tugun Seahawks have broken through to claim the Bycroft Cup premiership with a thrilling 26-18 win over the Southport Tigers on Sunday. After losing the 2011 and 12 deciders in golden point extra time the Seahawks put their demons to rest by defending their line gallantly in the second half and claiming a deserved win.

Both teams delivered and produced a game worthy of its grand stage.

It took less than sixty seconds for scoring to get underway with Southport marching up the field on the back of an early penalty and scoring through skipper Tim Cannard who was the beneficiary of some terrific lead up work from Drumayne Dayberg-Muir and Kimi Pakipaki Hemopo.

The Seahawks hit back five minutes later through Daniel Webb who scored off a Joel Sykes grubber, before the Tigers went to their left again with Dayberg-Muir and Pakipaki Hemopo again combining for points. The rest of the half belonged to the Seahawks who scored tries through Dylan Nash (28th minute) and Joel Sykes (32nd minute) and a penalty goal on the stroke of halftime, giving the Seahawks a 14-12 lead at the break.

Southport scored first and took back the lead after the break when halfback Marty Mitchell turned it inside to Dayberg-Muir who crashed over near the posts. This is where the arm wrestle really started to set in. The battle in the middle intensified and the Tigers started to apply plenty of pressure on the Seahawks defence.

A scrum inside the Tigers 20 gave five-eighth Keanu Te Kiri a chance to take the line on from close range. He scored and gave the Seahawks a two point lead with 20 to go. The Tigers came hard at the Seahawks in the last twenty minutes, getting over the line on a number of occasions only to be turned away by Tugun again and again. Tugun refused to wilt and when Joel Sykes scored his second of the afternoon on the buzzer the party began for the victorious Seahawks.

Seahawks coach Selwyn Apanui was full of pride after the game, especially for the courageous effort of his men. He also spoke about how defeats in 2011 and 2012 had impacted this year’s squad. “I can’t believe our defence in that second half and some of the efforts of some of the boys were just astronomical,” he said. “Sammy Rowlings played with two busted ribs for the last 60 minutes of that game. Webby (Daniel Webb) played with a broken nose.

“I just can’t thank the boys enough. It’s a victory the club has been singing out for for a long, long time and to finally bring a victory home is an awesome feeling. “During the week some of the guys from 2011 and 2012 felt the pain. We had guys here today from those teams. “They would talk about how it was just an empty feeling afterwards to think that we could have done this or that we could have changed things but it was all too late.

“When they were speaking about that during the week it really hit home to some of those blokes and you could just tell that some of the more experienced blokes really stood up today.” Even with his injured ribs Seahawks prop and skipper Sam Rowlings was a tower of strength in the middle. He didn’t get through his usual 80 minutes, going off shortly before halftime to attend to his ribs before returning in the second half, but his work rate and impact was as good as ever and it earned him the Pat Shepherdson Trophy for man of the match.

It was a trophy he probably could have won in 11’ and 12’ had his teams been victorious and he was certainly a popular choice among the Tugun faithful. “He’s a true professional,” Apanui said of his captain. “I honestly think he could have played NRL at some stage but his thinking of his work and looking after his family is more important.

“There is no doubt that Sammy in on the next level. He’s got that aura about him. He’s definitely a leader and anyone that plays with two busted ribs; you’ve got to take your hat off to him. He’s definitely a warrior.” Tigers coach Steve Dowd was disappointed that his men didn’t get the win, but was still proud of the way his players have performed and conducted themselves all season. “There wasn’t much difference. The difference was when Tugun got their opportunities they took them and when our opportunities came up we didn’t seize them all the time,” he said.

“We played well all season but things just didn’t come off. It wasn’t our day. I love football but sometimes the footy Gods don’t love me back. “Full congratulations to Selwyn; he deserves it. He is a passionate man for football, so good luck to Tugun.” Dowd said his skipped Tim Cannard, hooker Chris Thomas and centre Kimi Pakipaki Hemopo were among his best.

TUGUN SEAHAWKS 26 (J Sykes 2, D Webb, D Nash, K Te Kiri tries V Buatava 2, K Te Kiri goals) def SOUTHPORT TIGERS 16 (T Cannard, K Pakipaki Hemopo, D Dayberg-Muir tries T Cannard 2 goals)

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