QLD Premier Rugby: Tongan Thor stars as Brothers clinch title
Taniela Tupou claimed the Tony Shaw Medal as Man of the Match in Brothers’ 31-28 Queensland Premier Rugby grand final triumph over University on Sunday.
The 20 year-old prop was instrumental in helping the Brethren to victory with a number of barnstorming runs, huge defence and most impressively, a dominant scrumming performance.
For the Queensland Reds star, the biggest thrill was to win the premiership alongside his brother, Criff.
“That was my first proper grand final, so it was good to get a win and to play alongside my brother,” said Tupou.
Tupou was lost for words when describing the feeling, following the thrilling match played in front of more than 9000 fans.
“It’s massive. It’s good… happy. I can’t really explain it,” said Tupou, his smile bigger than a split watermelon.
Brothers once again used Tupou as a battering ram in attack, constantly putting a dent in the UQ defence and always getting over the advantage line.
The superstar tighthead is well known for his ball carrying ability and his YouTube highlights package from high school is largely to thank for earning him a professional contract at the Reds.
However, his scrumming ability has come a long way under Reds head coach Nick Stiles, and together with fellow Reds prop Sam Talakai, Tupou demolished the University set piece time and time again on Sunday.
Fittingly, it was Tupou who sealed the win in the 79th minute. Defending a narrow three-point lead, Tupou wrapped his massive arms around the ball at the ruck and couldn’t be budged, forcing a penalty from referee Nick Berry.
A lesson in leadership was delivered by veteran Nathanuel Gendle as he opted for the scrum. The time it took to set chewed up the remaining 80 seconds and Brothers booted the ball into the crowd.
The pressure Brothers applied to the minor premiers was evident from the outset as Gendle scored in the third minute, to open up a 7-0 lead.
The captain led from the front, playing a major hand in his side’s second try in the 17th minute, bending the line and freeing his arms to offload to centre partner Eliih Baillie who threw a long cut out to Mitch Felsman to finish in the corner.
The skipper summed up the feeling of victory in one word.
“That’s all I’ve got. I’ve got no more words.”
It’s a just reward for Brothers who have bowed out of the finals on the first weekend in the past three seasons.
“It’s been building for the last two to three years,” said a jubilant Gendle.
“The young guys have learnt from those experiences and put it on show today.”
The premiership victory is a significant achievement for the whole club following a major overhaul which saw the junior and senior clubs amalgamated for the first time in 2016.
“Everyone was behind us, that’s something that we talked about beforehand,’ said Brothers head coach, Carl Marshall.
“It’s huge. It’s the first year since the merger. It’s the start of something really special, I think.”
Brothers replicated their successful game plan from the major semi final win a fortnight ago, frustrating University into errors and starving them of possession.
“We definitely adhered to the game plan, played good field position, built a lot of pressure and caused a lot of errors from University,” said Marshall.
“We probably didn’t finish things off as well as we could’ve, but in the end we did control the game and were deserved winners, I thought.”
Lifting the Hospital Cup capped a successful weekend for the club as Brothers won three of the five grand finals they contested across Saturday and Sunday.
“For the whole club it’s such a magic moment and we’ll cherish it forever,” said Marshall.