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MATCH reports for Week 1 of the Queensland Wizard Cup finals including full list of upcoming finals matches.
REDCLIFFE 22 d NORTH QUEENSLAND 8 REDCLIFFE is one win away from its eighth QLD Wizard Cup grand final in the past 11 years, recording a 22-8 upset of defending premier North Queensland in Sunday?s qualifying final.
Around the state it was the day of the underdog, as Souths Logan ousted Wynnum Manly from the FOGS Cup title race and hot shots Aspley were flogged in the Colts Challenge elimination final.
Redcliffe?s task in overcoming the Young Guns in Townsville was no easy feat, with the trip north bringing little joy to most teams this season.
Indeed the Dolphins had been beaten 30-12 in the tropics just three weeks beforehand and went into the match minus injured strike weapon Nick Emmett.
However they led 6-4 at halftime in front of a parochial North Queensland crowd, answering the challenge to increase their defensive intensity.
In a Man of the Match performance Mount Isa-raised fullback Ryan Cullen scored three tries for the Dolphins, who now meet Toowoomba in next Saturday?s major semi at Clive Berghofer Stadium.
?We?ve guaranteed ourselves two chances of the grand final and that was the aim coming up here,? Redcliffe coach Anthony Griffin said.
?We got through unscathed today with injuries, so we?ll take the chance to freshen up and get ready to play the Clydesdales.?
Dominant for much of the season, North Queensland now faces Easts in a do-or-die minor semi final at Dairy Farmers Stadium on Friday. The match will be held between the national semi-final of the Arrive Alive Cup and the final round NRL match between the Cowboys and Parramatta.
The Young Guns will have to regain confidence and direction in attack after scoring just three tries in their last two matches.
Frustrated, the reigning champs posted one try to Brenton Bowen in the first half against Redcliffe, but waited until three minutes before fulltime before recording their second via Jamie Frizzo.
The Dolphins did their level best to limit all opportunities, completing 18 of 20 sets in the second stanza and shifting defensive specialist Mark Shipway to the centres. Shipway?s performance was described as ?excellent? by Griffin, with fellow three-quarter Greg Bourke proving rock-solid as well.
It remains to be seen how the Dolphins will restructure their backline when Emmett returns from his quadriceps tear, with Griffin revealing he was ?hoping to get something? from the 24-year-old before the season was out.
Earlier in the day there were big upsets in both FOGS Cup and Colts elimination finals. Most startling was a 62-8 win by Wynnum Manly over Aspley in the Under 19s. After finishing the season red-hot, Brisbane Bronco affiliate Aspley was expected to win the match comfortably.
Wynnum Manly also went within a whisker of winning the FOGS Cup elimination final, but fell 28-24 to battlers Souths Logan; the Magpies staying alive in their quest for the clubs first premiership since 1985.
REDCLIFFE 22 (Ryan Cullen 3, Rory Bromley tries; Greg Bourke 3 goals) d NORTH QUEENSLAND 8 (Brenton Bowen, Jamie Frizzo tries) at Townsville Sports Reserve.
EASTS 12 d TWEED HEADS 4 THE EASTS Tigers have proved themselves to be the masters of the arm wrestle for the second week in a row, gritting out a 12-4 win against Tweed Heads in the QLD Wizard Cup elimination final.
Establishing a 12-0 lead after just 23 minutes at the Piggabeen Complex, the Tigers hung on for dear life to move into the second week of the finals. Their victory came just seven days after a similarly dour do-or-die affair against the Central Comets, won to the tune of 12-6.
As a result the premiership dream remains alive for retiring veteran Steele Retchless, the former Brisbane, London and South Queensland forward winding down his career with Easts.
Retchless, 35, was unstoppable at the Piggabeen Complex in what he knew was perhaps his last match, taking hit-up after hit-up and producing a powerhouse effort in defence.
Easts led after just 67 seconds when backrower Mark Cantoni crossed. There was more than a touch of controversy in the lead-up, with the Tigers awarded six more tackles from a deflected kick regathered by Marty Allen.
Set to be dual registered with South Sydney in 2007, Cantoni was just as prominent as Retchless in the opening exchanges, while halfback Luke Branighan was at his scheming best.
Branighan set the platform for the second try of the match, testing a short blindside late in the tackle count, finding winger David Tyrrell with a well-timed pass and then watching Tyrrell lob the ball inside for centre Mark McKenzie to score.
Favourites heading into the match, Tweed Heads responded in the 27th minute with a long-range try to centre James Wood. Wood ran 65m to plant the ball and the home crowd needed to be cautioned for encroaching on the field, such was the raucous celebration.
Having come back from the dead to beat Wynnum Manly 26-20 a week earlier, Tweed provided enough to suggest they would do so again.
A clever break by Dean Allen started the second half, while Wood starred with another long-range effort, only to inexplicably pass the ball forward to teammate Roy Friend. The litany of missed opportunities grew throughout the remainder of the match, frustrating coach Steve Murphy in his last game with the club.
The play that best summed up the match came 20 minutes from fulltime when Seagulls pivot Brad Davis threw a great dummy to slice the defence open. He met wiry Tigers fullback Kev Stephensen head-on and Stephensen drilled him backwards. The visitors would not be broken.
On a losing side leaders Matt King and Andrew Moroney tried hard until the end, with King chasing down winger John Tamanika and throwing him into touch in a courageous play.
Yet Easts seemed to want the victory more, having been beaten in both curtain-raisers ? downed 36-12 by Burleigh in the FOGS Cup qualifying final and 46-16 by Redcliffe in the Colts qualifier.
All three Tigers teams live to fight another day, with the Wizard Cup side to meet the loser of tomorrow?s match between North Queensland and Redcliffe. The FOGS Cup side will meet the winner of Wynnum Manly and Souths Logan, while the Colts face either Wynnum Manly or Aspley.
EASTS 12 (Mark Cantoni; Mark McKenzie tries; Luke Branighan 2 goals) d TWEED HEADS 4 (James Wood try) at the Piggabeen Complex.