Ipswich on a high for national bid
IPSWICH State High turns its attention to the national knockout rugby league competition after a sensational Langer Cup campaign during which it stunned several of the best schoolboy teams in the country.
Ipswich stormed over the top of Marsden SHS at the North Ipswich Reserve to cap its remarkable run with a convincing 34-22 victory.
Trailing 16-14 at the break, Ipswich regrouped and wrestled back the momentum during the second stanza before speed demon second rower Ativalu Lisati sealed an emphatic victory in the dying stages.
Facing a Marsden line-up featuring several players to be picked up by NRL clubs, including outstanding Broncos contracted centre TC Robati, Ipswich's underdogs impressed again.
Given a job to do on the gifted Robati, captain Paea Fe'ao and five-eighth Waylon Fiaii were brilliant as they limited his influence.
Front rowers Stanley Fiso and Ezekial Figota displayed tremendous leg speed in laying a solid platform.
Scintillating left centre Elone Taufa set the game alight with three spectacular tries.
Coach Josh Bretherton said Marsden came out firing and placed his charges under immense pressure but he was pleased with the way they responded.
"I'm really happy - very proud," he said.
He said the success the team had this season was underpinned by a commitment from each member to compete for each other, work hard defensively, and remain calm and focused when under extreme pressure.
"We had a group of 17-18-year-olds facing a high pressure situation and they helped each other through that, which became a key," he said.
The result means Ipswich, which entered the round in a three-way tie at the top of the table with Palm Beach and Currumbin and Keebra Park, finish runner up in the state's premier competition.
In need of a miracle to steal the trophy, it did not eventuate, with Palm Beach Currumbin overcoming Keebra Park 34-26 to edge Ipswich on for and against, and claim the cup for the second year running.
With their latest win, Ipswich also secured the all-important number two ranking for the national knockout competition. That means ISH will meet a lesser opponent in the opening round, which kicks off in seven weeks.
At the knockout phase, two teams from the lower tier will join the super six to playoff until two sides remain.
Those two sides will then meet the top two from the northern half of the Queensland draw in state semi finals and a final.
The number one Queensland side will then battle it out with the best outfit from New South Wales to determine the national champion.
Bretherton said the Ipswich squad would take advantage of the break in the season to heal niggling injuries and ensure they arrived at the knockout phase in optimum condition.
"We know we can match it with the best," he said. "That was the goal.
"It certainly gives us confidence that we are preparing them well.
"Now we'll put our heads down and do another seven weeks of hard work, and see if we can do something really special at knockouts."
Bretherton said Ipswich State High was thrilled with the level of support it received from the local rugby league community on short notice.
"It was a really brilliant night at a great venue with a great crowd," he said.
Next year, the school plans to hold community events in conjunction with the games.