Mundubbera maul brave Gladiators
RUGBY LEAGUE: The Mundubbera Tigers were too strong for an injury-depleted Gayndah Gladiators, hanging on to win 32-22 in Saturday's grand final rematch at Archer Park.
Mundubbera now sit undefeated at the top of the table after trouncing Biggenden by 20 points in the season opener two weeks ago.
It was an inspired performance from a Gladiators side reduced to 12 men at one stage during the second half.
Despite limited interchange the visitors gave the Tigers a scare, launching a gutsy late charge to fall agonisingly short of what would have been a miracle win.
Tries to Gayndah's Kedron Pointon and Jamie Kirk inside the final 10 minutes got them within four points of the home side at 26-22, but an error off the kick-off killed their momentum and cruelled any hope of a stunning comeback.
Mundubbera five-eighth Bailey Kimber made them pay a few tackles later, barging over next to the posts to restore the two try buffer and put the game to bed.
Frustrated Tigers' captain Cameron MacDonald said ill-discipline and errors invited Gayndah back into the contest, but was happy to get the result.
"I'm not too pleased with the finish, we didn't put them away,” MacDonald said.
"Full credit to Gayndah they really showed up.
"They're the defending premiers and the team to beat as far as I'm concerned.
"It wasn't pretty and we have a lot to work on but I'm happy to get the two points.”
Earlier, the Tigers dominated possession in an error-riddled first half and opened the scoring with a long-range effort from winger Viliame Lelenga.
Both teams squandered a couple of early opportunities but Gayndah rallied to hit back just before halftime through skipper Zac Dann to go into the break locked at 6-all.
Mundubbera came out firing in the second half and blew the Gladiators off the park with some electric football from right edge duo Viliame and Eniokeli Foki, the pair combining for four of the Tigers' six tries.
The highlight of the afternoon was Foki's brilliant solo effort off a kick return to break the deadlock, standing up half the Gayndah defence and racing 90 metres to score.
Viliame followed it up with some magic of his own.
Gayndah paid the price for letting a mid-field bomb bounce, pinched by Villiame like a thief in the night, tip-toeing down the sideline to bag the second of his hat-trick.
Gladiators coach Rob Linsket was disappointed to lose the grudge match but said he was proud of his team's performance.
"I can't complain about the effort,” Linsket said.
"The boys hung in there all the way through.
"It was 80 minutes of pure heart and they really put in for each other.”