The Toowoomba Clydesdales returned to the winners circle today with a comprehensive 36-24 victory over the Wynnum Seagulls at Kougari Oval.
Despite missing several key players to the Under-19 Queensland representative side, the Clydesdales were buoyed by the return of Nick Parfitt, Darren Mapp and Ben Ikin from Bronco duty. Utility extraordinaire Ian Lacey delivered an incredible performance at halfback, with the entire forward pack creating plenty of room in the physical encounter.
The Clydesdales couldn�t have asked for a better start to the match, as Lacey made a superb line break to send Nick Parfitt in for his 11th try in the season. After just 5 minutes, they were nursing a 4-0 lead. The Seagulls hit back with a try to fullback Jimmy Ahmat, which was converted to give the home side a two-point advantage. A critical error by the Wynnum side from the restart resulted in a try to second-rower Darren Mapp. Having obvious problems with the boot, Parfitt missed the second attempt at conversion.
With the score at 8-6, both teams traded heavy blows as they attempted to be the next to score. It took almost 20 minutes for the next points to come, as Lacey put in a clever kick for centre Scott Minto, who made no mistake. Replacement winger Steve Irwin received the kicking duties and promptly slotted the conversion. Just seconds before halftime, another Lacey kick found its mark, but not without a bit of luck. On the fifth tackle, the kick ricocheted off a Wynnum defender to fall straight in the hands of David Stagg, who had enough space to find the line. Irwin made it 2 from 2, and it was the Clydesdales holding a handy 20-6 lead at halftime.
They managed to start the second half with the same intensity, as Darren Mapp collected his second try for the afternoon just 3 minutes into the half. Things were looking comfortable at 26-6, but Wynnum didn�t lie down. Seagulls halfback Damien Quinn narrowed the gap with a solid try, and captain Damien Quinn brought the margin to just 14. Only minutes later, Toowoomba put the game almost beyond doubt, with flying winger Steve Irwin collecting a memorable try and conversion, to give the Clydesdales a 20-point bumper.
As tempers continued to flare, front-rower Carl Webb was sent to the sin bin after numerous altercations with referee Rob Alexander. With the Clydesdales reduced to 12 men, Wynnum were able to cross the line yet again through interchange Wade Bachmann. The 14 point bumper remained until Steve Irwin crossed for his second try of the afternoon with only 10 minutes left on the clock. Seagulls prop Grant Wooden crossed for a complimentary try only seconds before the end of the match, bringing the score-line to a respectable 36-24.
The Seagulls showed a true fighting spirit in front of a vocal home crowd, but handling errors and penalties cost them in the end. Great effort was shown by the forwards of both sides, who put together a gruelling performance up the middle of the park.
As Coach John Dixon said earlier this year, �Ian (Lacey) is the kind of bloke you could pick anywhere on the park.� He displayed that quality today, with a superb performance at halfback. He was directly responsible for 3 of the Clydesdales 7 tries, and had a hand in the rest.
A buoyant Clydesdales CEO Len Saal was smiling after the full-time siren, praising the efforts of Ian Lacey, Grant Booker, Adrian Vowles and Darren Mapp amongst many others. But the best news was yet to come. The Redcliffe Dolphins suffered a defeat at the hands of the Easts Tigers today, putting the Clydesdales in outright first position on the QRL table.
The Clydesdales face a tough challenge at home next week when they face off against the North Queensland Young Guns, who are also coming off an impressive win. This game will be extremely important to the team as they strive to remain in poll position, and if this performance is any indication, they will give it their all.
Toowoomba Clydesdales 36 (Irwin 2, Mapp 2, Minto, Stagg, Parfitt tries; Irwin 4 goals) defeated Wynnum Seagulls 24 (Ahmat, McPherson, Bachmann, Wooden tries; Quinn 4 goals) at Kougari Oval.
Penalties: Toowoomba 9-8
Half-Time Score: Toowoomba 20-6
First Try-Scorer: Nick Parfitt, Toowoomba.