Devils lose thriller to Sharks
A SHOT at making club history went begging at the weekend as the Gympie Devils lost a thriller against the Caloundra Sharks.
Playing Sunday at Shark Park, the Devils had a chance to clinch their first Caloundra RSL Cup minor premiership and the coveted Billy Moore Shield.
But it was defending premier Caloundra that emerged triumphant, winning 38-28.
It was a brave effort from the Devils against the home team, but disappointment was an inevitable emotion when the final whistle blew.
Gympie Devils Rugby League Club president Scott Dodt said before the heat of battle the club was playing for its first minor premiership and the occasion was historic.
The last time the Devils had made even a semi-final, let alone challenged for the minor premiership, was more than 12 years ago.
And the Billy Moore Shield, fought between the top two teams of the Sunshine Coat competition at the midway point of the season, has never been even a remote possibility for the Gympie club.
Devils coach John Greensill was pleased with how his troops had prepared before the clash, but Caloundra’s home crowd advantage and status as defending premier proved to be a telling difference.
The game started off poorly, with sloppy play, reflecting the tension in both outfits.
However, the early nerves quickly dissipated and the teams produced some of the greatest rugby league witnessed all season.
Gympie drew early blood when Michael Blaik dived across the line, giving the visitors early momentum.
However, Caloundra, on the back of vocal home crowd support, fired up and collected two intercept tries, to Ben Roberts and Toby Adams.
The shock of the sudden reversal in fortunes hurt more for the Devils when four points to Scott Morrissey allowed the defending premiers to race to a 16-6 lead.
A Devils fightback was led by Trent Callaghan and Nick Swan, who crossed in quick succession, but a try to Caloundra’s Dale Smyth moments before half-time allowed the home team to maintain a lead with the score at 20-18.
A Gympie mistake when play resumed allowed Caloundra to build on its lead, thanks to a try from Wade Grayson.
The Devils were pinned down at this stage in the match, unable to get anywhere near Caloundra’s try line for the next three sets as the game’s intensity soared.
A breakthrough for the Devils, giving hope to the small but spirited pocket of Gympie support in the crowd, came when a controversial try was awarded to Craig Marshall.
The Devils were only two points from levelling with Caloundra when Ratu Viravu broke though the Sharks’ defence to score.
Gympie had secured a slender lead at 28-26 with less than 10 minutes to go.
With everything on the line, every play from either side had a bearing on the final result. But any hope of a history-making victory slipped through the Devils’ fingers when Caloundra halfback Justin Otto finished off a Brad Ibbs line-break to recapture the lead.
Hammering the final nail into Gympie’s coffin was a final try to Caloundra following a Devils knock-on.
Former Sunshine Coast Gympie Rugby League chief executive Billy Moore presented the Billy Moore Cup to Caloundra.