Ipswich’s incredible celebration laced with Kuli’s tribute
GROWING threat Ipswich State High celebrated like they'd won the grand final after their best defensive performance in Langer Cup history secured an amazing victory.
However, the jubilant scenes in and outside the North Ipswich Reserve change rooms were tinged with sadness after Ipswich repelled former competition leaders Wavell to win 6-4.
Head coach Josh Bretherton and his team paid tribute to Ipswich warrior Kulikefu Finefeuiaki who produced a mighty solo effort after hearing his grandfather had passed away earlier that day.
In Ipswich's most important game of the elite schoolboy competition, Finefeuiaki was determined to play on as a tribute. He was one of his team's rock solid defenders in an incredible display that secured Ipswich's path into next week's semi-finals.
"Kuli found out maybe five or six hours ago his grandfather passed away,'' Bretherton said.
"And he played the whole game. So you can imagine from the moment that phone call was made at school today and we had to help him . . . and he decided he wanted to come back and play.
"I'm so proud of him.''
But after that draining day for the team sharing Kuli's loss, Bretherton said his players deserved to unleash an explosion of emotion.
"With the slow start to the season and putting ourselves in that very difficult position, it did have a grand final feel,'' Bretherton said.
"It was potentially the last game of the year for us so we had to throw everything at it.
"It meant a lot to them and they enjoyed that they did have to work so hard for it.
"That was genuinely a really great game of football.''
Ipswich had to win today's round 5 match to retain fourth spot for another Langer Cup playoffs campaign.
The home side did with sheer courage as other contenders St Mary's and Marsden lost to Keebra Park (46-12) and Palm Beach Currumbin (32-14).
Wavell kicked off the match in top spot having scored twice as many points (104) as they had conceded.
Their defensive might was again on show in the first half being the only team to score when Wavell five-eight Logan Puohotaua won the race to the ball close to the posts.
However, Ipswich's relentless defence was equal to the test with their second half try to a barging Waylon Fiaii, converted by co-captain Lachlan Williamson, breaking the deadlock.
"It was very good, especially the line defence,'' Williamson said enjoying a quiet moment after the earlier emotion-charged scenes.
"Full credit to the boys. It was tough.
"You couldn't put a foot wrong today but we hung in and all the way to the end.
"They (Wavell) are a 60 minute side and we knew that from the start and they were never going to give up.''
Bretherton agreed, rating it the best repelling effort he'd seen during his seven years overseeing the Ipswich State High Rugby League Academy.
"I can't remember the last time we played in a game that was that low scoring,'' he said, thrilled with all his forwards.
Bretherton also praised Wavell for their mighty display, highlighting the quality rugby league being played.
"I thought defensively we did an outstanding job and equally I thought Wavell did an outstanding job,'' he said. "It was just a really tough game of schoolboy footy.''
One of the casualties was Roosters contracted player Evander Tere-Rongotaua who was injured late in the game and was still on the ground being attended to when the full-time siren sounded.
Tere-Rongotaua hobbled into the Ipswich dressing room with his sore knee, generating plenty of concern.
Fourth placed Ipswich will tackle new competition leaders Palm Beach Currumbin in next week's semi-finals.
Second placed Wavell face a revitalised Keebra Park in the other semi-final.
Those match-ups are exactly the same as the first round in this year's cut-throat Langer Cup series.
Langer Cup Round 5: Ipswich State High 6 (Waylon Fiaii try, Lachlan Williamson goal) def Wavell State High 4 (Logan Puohotaua) at the North Ipswich Reserve.