New teams, new squads and high scores have been the feature of the 2015 Universities Rugby League Queensland competition, and if the first three rounds are anything to go by, this season will be a cracker.
The return of Australian Catholic Universities has injected a new lease of life into the 26-year old competition, with most teams fielding entirely new squads in season 2015.
It has been a highly impressive and entertaining start to the season, and we thought we would take a look at how your team is placed after the opening three rounds of competition.
QUT Trouts – 1stplace, 2 wins and a draw
The benchmark of the past five seasons, the Trouts are a tough and consistent unit.
Missing a few of their regular faces, QUT drew 14-all with the Griffith Logan Redbacks in a fierce season opener. The Trouts started strongly in the grand final rematch, but the Redbacks crept back into the match as the rain kicked in in the second half.
QUT put the competition on notice with a Round 2, 66-4 drubbing of competition newcomers, ACU. Trouts halfback Brendan Baker has been the highlight so far this season, and was again at his scheming best against ACU, bagging two tries and six goals in a dominant performance.
And Baker continued his sterling form in round three, crossing for a hat-trick in his sides 56-18 victory over the UQ Hounds. Baker and halves partner, Richie Kay, tore the Hounds to shreds close to the line, with competition stalwart Kay crossing for two tries and booting eight goals in an impressive 2015 debut.
Griffith Dragons – 2ndplace, 2 wins
The competition surprise packets, the Griffith Dragons have built on a solid 2014 campaign with a strong start to this season.
Determined to prove that they are no longer the competitions whipping boys, the Dragons ran riot against ACU, posting twelve tries in a 58-0 rout in round one.
The Dragons shocked many in round two however, registering a thoroughly entertaining 30-12 victory over the new look Griffith Gold Coast Panthers. As was the case last season, the Kiddie brothers have been the highlight for the Dragons, with Emmanuel, Elisha and Elijah already accounting for eight of the Dragons tries this season.
Injuries interfered with the Dragons early season form in round three though, falling 31-14 to reigning premiers, the Griffith Logan Redbacks at a blustery Logan campus. The Redbacks were always in control, but credit to the Dragons for staying in the fight given they were missing key personnel.
Griffith Gold CoastPanthers – 3rd place, 2 wins
It’s an entirely new squad for the Panthers in season 2015, but in just three short weeks, they have already displayed the steely grit and energy that Gold Coast teams are renowned for.
Round one saw the Panthers and Hounds play out a dynamic season opener at a drizzly Parkwood, with the home side holding on for a brutal 26-24 victory. The score changed hands five times throughout the match, but the Gold Coasts speedy outside backs took full advantage of any half chances, to see them open the season with a vital win.
It was a vastly different Panthers outfit in round two however, out enthused in a 30-12 loss to the energetic Dragons at Nathan. While the Panthers forwards toiled hard all night, the slippery conditions troubled the Panthers backline, and they found themselves on the back foot for most of the night.
Gold Coast Griffith made it two from two at Parkwood in round three, holding off a resilient ACU squad and registering a vital 46-24 victory to keep them in touch with the competition leaders. Again it was a dominant effort by forwards Sonny Sekoa, Josh Jarvie and Tala Hellesoe that paved the way for the win, with backs Travis Drury and Luke Southam at their deceptive best.
Griffith Logan Redbacks– 4th place, 1 win, 1 draw
It’s been a tough campaign for the reigning premiers, but the return of a few regular faces should see the Redbacks begin to climb.
After a slow first half, Griffith Logan were able to claw back an early QUT lead and hold on for a 14-all draw in round one. In a true arm wrestle in slippery conditions, the Redbacks hit their stride in the second half and eventually split the points in the 2014 URLQ grand final re-match.
The reigning premiers faced another tough battle in round two, meeting a fired up Hounds outfit who eventually ran away with a 18-14 victory at St Lucia. Centre James Fuli proved a handful crossing for a double, while Redbacks regulars Tyrone Girle and Taniela Ilagana were also strong.
The return of some familiar faces in round three saw the Redbacks kick start their season, dominating the Dragons and recording a 31-14 victory at a freezing Logan campus.
UQ Hounds – 5thplace, 1 win
Another team fielding an entirely new squad, UQ have struggled for consistency over the opening three rounds. Given their professional set-up and willingness to throw the ball around, the Hounds should never be written off.
The Hounds were full of running in round one against the Panthers, but errors at pivotal moments saw the home side survive with a hard fought 26-24 victory. Kyle Reily, Lachlan Boustead and Sam Oxley lead the way for the Hounds, but some crucial missed conversions proved costly.
UQ bounced back at home in round two with an 18-14 shut out of the Griffith Logan Redbacks. Lachlan Boustead again continued his strong start to the season while halves Sam Oxley and Craig Paterson controlled the game well.
But the up and down start to the season continued for the Hounds, going down 56-18 to a rampant Trouts outfit at Aspley. Penalties and lack of possession clearly hindered the Hounds second half comeback, with the Trouts sailing to the top of the ladder with their impressive win.
ACU – 6thplace, no wins
After a ten year hiatus, ACU are back and ready to become a force. The squad is growing and beginning to gel, with improvement being shown each week.
It was a tough return to the competition in round one, outclassed 58-0 by the unrelenting Griffith Dragons.
Round two was a vast improvement despite the scoreboard, with ACU registering their first points of the season but on the wrong end of a 66-4 score line against QUT. The new squad more then held their own for the majority of the match, but a 30-point flurry in the final 20 minutes saw the score blow out.
The confidence has grown in a short amount of time, with ACU crossing for five tries in a much improved round three effort, eventually going down 46-24 to the Griffith Gold Coast Panthers. Hooker Daniel Halpin and half Chris Hansen were shining lights for the visitors, and signaled to the competition that ACU should not be taken lightly.
Round four action sees the Griffith Dragons host the table topping Trouts, ACU and the Hounds face off at Banyo and the Redbacks will take on Griffith Gold Coast at the Griffith Logan campus.
Griffith GC Panthers 46 (Sonny Sekoa3, Travis Drury 2, Adam Meo, Josh Jarvie, Corey Payne, Tala Hellesoe tries; Luke Southam 4, Reece Perkins goal)
ACU 24 (Daniel Halpin 2, Ray Bryant, Chris Hansen, Coen Ramsay Matthews tries; Chris Hansen 2 goals)
QUT Trouts 56 (Brendan Baker 3, Richard Kay 2, Ty Buckmeister, Alex Nicholson, Jack Costa, Daniel Smith tries; Richard Kay 8 goals)
UQ Hounds 18 (Lachlan Boustead 2, Craig Patterson, Chris Sharpe tries; Craig Patterson goal)
Griffith Logan Redbacks 31 (Dwayne Urquhart 2, Kyran Brown, Andrew Taukolo, Ben Ah-Sam tries; Casey Bromilow 5 goals, Dwayne Urquhart field goal)
Griffith Dragons 14 (Elijah Kiddie 2, James Smith tries; Jesse Domic goal)
URLQ LADDER: QUT Trouts 8, Griffith Dragons Nathan 7, Griffith Gold Coast Panthers 7, Griffith Logan Redbacks 6, UQ Hounds 5, ACU 3