State Championship Final – Illawarra Cutters v Burleigh Bears
Sunday, October 2 – 3.40pm – ANZ Stadium
The State Championship Final played between the winners of the NSW Cup and Queensland Cup has become a highly-anticipated affair and the 2016 showdown between Illawarra and Burleigh won’t disappoint.
Illawarra enter this off a dramatic 21-20 NSW Cup win over minor premiers Mounties, a Drew Hutchinson field goal proving the difference for Jason Demetriou’s side. It was the Cutters’ first title, capping a magnificent season for the men in red.
The Cutters raced to a 16-0 lead before Mounties hit back to reduce the deficit to 16-14 before the break. Mounties then hit the front before Kalifa Faifai-Loa try levelled it up. Hutchinson then slotted the decisive one-pointer with seven minutes to play.
The platform for the victory was laid by props Shannon Wakeman (167m) and Damian Sironen (111m) along with backrower Jacob Host (145m). Lock Silvia Havili topped the tackle count with 39 adding to his 128 metres while Faifai-Loa scored a double.
It was hard to look past the impact of fullback Adam Quinlan though, who laid on two tries including the late equaliser after being the difference in the preliminary final win over Newtown.
Burleigh Bears will be hoping that they can keep the undefeated run going for Queensland Cup teams in the State Championship Final. Northern Pride defeated Penrith 32-28 in 2014, while the Ipswich Jets overcame Newcastle 26-12 in last year’s edition of this match.
The Bears booked their spot at ANZ Stadium courtesy of their Intrust Super Cup Grand Final triumph over minor premiers Redcliffe Dolphins. Manly-bound Cameron Cullen was instrumental in the victory and took out the Duncan Hall Medal for his man of the match performance that included three linebreaks and a match-sealing try.
Another standout for the Bears was the custodian Kurtis Rowe who scored two tries in a scintillating performance and set up a crucial try to centre Sami Sauiluma. The Bears 26-16 win over the Dolphins was their first Grand Final victory since they beat the Easts Tigers 22-18 in 2004.
Cullen and halves partner Jamal Fogarty, who has signed for Parramatta in 2017, have been pivotal in the fluency of the Bears attack along with Rowe and hooker Pat Politoni.
The Cutters finished the season ranked third in attack averaging 30 points a match but they were the top defensive team conceding just 18ppg.
The Bears ranked third in attack during the regular season, scoring an average of 30 points a game, while they ranked 6th in defence, conceding an average of 22 points a game.
The biggest hurdle for the Bears heading to Sydney is whether the State Championship Final is nothing more than an afterthought. Coach Jim Lenihan was interviewed after his side’s Grand Final success and made it clear that the Instrust Super Cup title was the main focus for the side. If they’re switched on they have the ability to beat the Illawarra Cutters, but state pride is on the line and the Cutters will be determined to give NSW their first State Championship title.
For the Cutters, a torn quad to skipper Tyrone McCarthy is the biggest concern but there is little question they have more talent at their disposal. With a better defence and a more seasoned pack, Illawarra are the bet.
Recommended Bet: Illawarra ($1.75)