Class Of Cutters Impossible To Stop
The Intrust Super Championship has proven to be a rich source of fairytales in its two editions to date but the Illawarra Cutters used Sunday's clash with Burleigh to reinforce the old adage that a good big man will always beat a good little man.
From the opening exchanges it was obvious that there was a significant size difference between the two teams as the Cutters with nine full-time members of St George Illawarra's NRL squad monstered a Burleigh team containing Titans trio Cameron Cullen, Lachlan Burr and Nathaniel Peteru and a band of glaziers, landscapers and baristas.
Where the Northern Pride and Ipswich Jets had been able to prosper in the previous two state deciders by playing a different brand of football that is most commonly seen amongst NRL teams and their affiliates, Burleigh won Queensland's Intrust Super Cup with a power game that gave halves Jamal Fogarty and Cameron Cullen time and space to display their skills.
But there was no space and very little possession for the Bears' creative men as the Cutters started quickly and kept piling on the points, taking a 30-0 lead into half-time and then scoring a further four second-half tries to record a 54-12 thumping.
With the likes of Damian Sironen, Shannon Wakeman and Jacob Host not only rumbling forward but scoring tries, experienced NRL hooker Josh McCrone probed around the ruck before freeing halves Drew Hutchison and Shaun Nona.
Hutchison is the man touted to inherit Benji Marshall's No.7 jersey at the Dragons next season and used the game's greatest stage to build on his match-winning performance in the Intrust Super Premiership grand final and take even more winning momentum into 2017.
His floating cut-out pass to put Taane Milne in space late in the first half was a classy touch and he constantly challenged the Burleigh defence either with his own strong running game or by turning his quick men back on the inside to expose tired defenders.
Nona, who will be back in the Intrust Super Cup next year with the Townsville Blackhawks after winning with the Northern Pride in 2014, displayed the type of confidence that comes with a big lead with a kick on the first tackle from deep inside his own half and then a clever grubber shortly afterwards for Chris Lewis to score.
Titans back-rower Nathaniel Peteru was the only Burleigh player who started the game to physically match up with the Cutters and it wasn't until Paterika Vaivai and Josh Ailaomai were introduced that the Bears started winning the ruck.
But whatever spray coach Jim Lenihan gave them at half-time wore off very quickly as the Cutters continued to power their way through the Burleigh defence, Hutchison strolling through a handful of tacklers and Siliva Havili pushing his way through three defenders to score to the left of the posts.
Ironically, it was a power play with Pat Politoni dropping Ailaomai under that saw Burleigh finally post points in the 61st minute but when the ensuing kick-off went dead in-goal normal service resumed.
For Burleigh it was a sour way to end a terrific season where they broke a decade-long premiership drought but the Cutters displayed just what is waiting in the wings for St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor.
Hutchison was a stand-out, Milne looks all the world an NRL player, centre Levi Dodd shows enough to warrant an NRL opportunity somewhere and Havili performed a tremendous role switching between lock and hooker.
The Cutters' big win also completed a rare trifecta for coach Jason Demetriou who guided the Northern Pride to victory two years ago, was a member of Paul Green's coaching staff at the Cowboys last year and has now brought two trophies back to the Illawarra in his first year in the 'Gong.