Sunshine Coast Falcons clinched second place and Brisbane Tigers sealed a top-eight berth in the final round of Hostplus Cup matches at the weekend.
Spurred on by a brilliant start, the Falcons scored a 20-18 victory against the red-hot Redcliffe Dolphins in the Turn To Me Round and will once again have home ground advantage when the two teams meet again in the first week of finals on Saturday afternoon.
The winner will take the direct path to the preliminary final, with the loser forced into sudden-death football the following weekend.
The Falcons scored in the opening minute after surprising Redcliffe with a short kickoff and had three tries in the bank when Storm winger Sua Fa’alogo showcased his speed and evasiveness in a spectacular length-of-the-field try down the left flank in the 21st minute.
The Dolphins hit back with three tries in the final nine minutes of the first half to take a 18-12 lead but were kept scoreless by resolute Coast defence after halftime.
After scoring in the 41st minute to level up at 18-all, the Falcons took the lead for good with 19 minutes to go when ex-Storm player Daniel Atkinson nailed a penalty goal.
Sunshine Coast ended the home and away rounds on 29 points, two behind minor premiers Burleigh Bears who will play Norths Devils in the 1 v 4 final this weekend.
In Brisbane, the Tigers triumphed in a tryfest against the Tweed Seagulls – the 38-30 win earning the Brisbane club a rematch against the same opponents, this time at Tweed, in a knockout semi-final this weekend.
Storm forward Bronson Garlick crossed in the second half for the Tigers after the two sides were level at 18-all at halftime.
The CQ Capras and Northern Pride will meet in the other elimination semi-final.
Storm player statistics
Jayden Nikorima – 80 minutes – 8 runs for 44 metres, 2 offloads, 11 tackles
Bronson Garlick – 80 minutes – 1 try, 1 try assist, 14 runs for 114 metres, 34 post-contact metres, 3 tackle breaks, 4 offloads, 21 tackles
Jonah Pezet – 35 minutes – 1 try assist, 3 goals, 11 tackles
Falcons players TBC