History repeats as Gayndah go back-to-back
RUGBY LEAGUE: When it rains it pours. After a 34-year title drought the Gayndah Gladiators are now back-to-back premiers, beating the Mundubbera Tigers 30-10 in Saturday's grand final.
A ruthless second half display from Gayndah put on a show for the bumper crowd at Peter Dunn Oval.
The home side overcame a half time deficit, scoring 22 unanswered points to put the Tigers to the sword and clinch their second straight title.
It was a fairytale send off for club stalwarts Jamie Kirk (halfback) and Rob Linsket (coach) who are hanging up the boots and will go out on top.
Strong carries from back-row brothers Matthew and David Ulcoq set the platform and put the Gladiators on the front.
Skipper Zac Dann had the ball on a string and steered the ship in a man-of-the-match performance.
It was a masterclass from the five eighth who was in absolutely everything, scoring one try and setting up three others.
It was an uphill battle for Gayndah in season 2018, defrauded almost $30,000 by former treasurer Kourtney Turner before a ball had been kicked.
Dann said the adversity the club had faced - and the overwhelming community support - helped galvanise the Gladiators.
"It's brilliant. I can't describe it,” Dann said.
"It's just an awesome feeling.
"We seemed to gel really well tonight.
"I always try to put in 110 percent for the team and do my job.
"After what we went through at the start of the season - having about $12 in our bank account.
"The community gave us donations and the support was unbelievable so we played our guts out tonight for them.”
Mundubbera came close to conceding a try inside 10 seconds, forced to bat the ball dead after bobbling the opening kick off.
The error set the tone for their horror afternoon.
The visitors regained their composure and had some joy through the ruck.
Maraga Lohia and Bailey Kimber looked the most likely, making inroads and creating a number of half chances.
Gayndah's desperation in defence has been a feature of their campaign and they scrambled well to shut down the each of the Tigers' attacking raids.
Mundubbera were below their best, but a moment of individual brilliance from fullback Henry Tafolo on the stoke of half time handed them a 10-8 lead at the break.
Tafolo showcased his lethal right foot step, slicing through the Gladiators' green wall on a kick return and racing 80 metres to score.
Gayndah upped the tempo after the break and Mundubbera ran out of answers.
Their lack of discipline again proved costly, routinely piggy-backing Gayndah out of trouble and gifting them attacking field position through silly penalties.
The Gladiators hit the front early in the second half when Brendan Florence scooted out of dummy half from close-range to make it 14-10.
From there the floodgates opened.
Tries to Dann (53rd minute), Mitchell Ballin (63rd minute) and Ben Kenny (78th minute) delivered Gayndah the premiership trophy and a comprehensive 20-point win.
It was a disappointing end for the minor premiers, forced to endure their second heavy defeat in the decider in as many years.
Tigers captain Cameron MacDonald said unforced errors took the wind out of their sails as his team crumbled under the pressure.
"Going down like that in the big dance is a hard one to take,” MacDonald said.
"All the hard work we've put in all year. To get here and then lose it like that is heartbreaking.
"The first half was great but we just didn't go on with it.
"Discipline killed us - we gave away too many penalties and they capitalised on all of our mistakes.
"We've really got no excuses, we just didn't turn up in the second half.”
Gayndah Gladiators 30 (D Bradford, J Kirk, B Florence, Z Dann, M Ballin, B Kenny tries; 3/6 goals) defeated the Mundubbera Tigers 10 (M Lohia, H Tafolo tries; H Tafolo 1/2 goals) at Peter Dunn Oval, Gayndah.
Half-Time: Mundubbera 10-8
Central Burnett Rugby League Awards 2018
Rookie of the Year - Blake Jackson (Mundubbera)
Leading Point Scorer - Blake Augustine (Gayndah)
Representitive Player of the Year - Bailey Kimber (Mundubbera)
Grand Final MoM - Zac Dann (Gayndah)
Player of the Year - Tyler West (Eidsvold)