The Allsports Physiotherapy Hospital Challenge Cup made its long-awaited return over the weekend, with four high-quality games to kick off the season.
Easts, GPS and the University of Queensland all cemented their positions as premiership contenders, while a young Souths side proved why they could be a dark horse in 2020.
Here’s ‘five things we learned’ from all the Round 1 action.
1. Gallopers no one-trick ponyGPS have long been renowned for their dominance in the forward pack and at set-piece time, but it was the side’s new-look backline who stole all the headlines on Saturday afternoon.
Jeeps laid on nine tries in their 59-45 win over Wests, with a late comeback from the Bulldogs bringing the scores closer than what they were for much of the second half.
New recruit Teti Tela pulled the strings at flyhalf with an assured performance, while fellow ex-Magpie Abele Atunaisa impressed massively in his club debut, scoring a hat-trick and causing headaches for the Bulldogs defence all afternoon with some bulldozing charges.
Fullback Jono Kent chimed in with a number of slick touches, as did inside-centre Semeti Tela, whose combination with brother Teti in the midfield shapes as a huge point of difference this year.
Although it was the backs scoring the points, the GPS forward pack was once again strong, and laid the platform for their outside men to rack up the points.
Despite the loss, the Bulldogs will take plenty from their performance against the premiership heavyweights, including the strong showing from new recruit Jeremiah Skelton in the backrow.
The Bulldogs return to Sylvan Road next round when they host Easts, while Jeeps will take on Souths at Yoku Road.
2. Death, taxes and the HeaviesNo matter the year, no matter the opposition, the University of Queensland continue to impress in the Hospital Cup.
The defending premiers picked up where they left on Grand Final day last year, claiming a 39-20 win over Norths to start their title defence.
The Students’ starting team featured just five players from the starting XV from last year’s decider, but it mattered little as the side ran in seven tries to overcome a gritty Eagles outfit at Hugh Courtney Oval.
After the Heavies raced out of the blocks to lead 24-5 by the 30-minute mark, the second forty proved more equal at the Nest, with both sides scoring 15-points.
The return of club favourites Con Foley and Scott Gale was a welcome sight for Heavies fans, with the latter scoring a try, while Queensland Premier Sevens product Lachlan Sperling impressed on the wing, scoring a double.
Although they were on the wrong end of the scoreboard, Norths again showed they have the determination and resolve to be a force in the competition this year.
They’ll look to bounce back when they face northside rivals Brothers at Crosby Park this weekend, while Uni have the bye.
3. Young Magpies repay the faithNew head coach Todd Dammers has backed his young squad to make the jump to Premier Grade this year, and his up and coming Magpies justified his decision on the weekend.
Souths held last year’s minor premiers to just two tries to claim a 30-14 win, scoring three tries themselves to go with a flawless performance off the tee by Khan Ah Wang.
A number of players from last year’s premiership winning Colts side featured heavily for the Magpies, including Theo Fourie, Phransis Sula- Siaosi, Villiami Lea and Henry Smith, and all looked right at home in Hospital Challenge Cup Rugby.
Dammers and his team have combined the youngsters with a number of experienced campaigners who also stood up for the side on the weekend, with new flyhalf Roman Prasad and winger Ah Wang among the Magpie’s best performers in the 16-point win.
After the success of last season, the loss is not how the Brethren would have been hoping to start their 2020 campaign and the club will look to some of their veterans to lead the side this weekend.
Skipper Tom Moloney, flyhalf Rohan Saifoloi and off-season recruit Dillon Wihongi all loom as key men when the side hosts Norths in the north-side derby this Saturday.
Souths have another tough test in Round 2 when they travel to Ashgrove to take on GPS.
4. Tigers on the risePremiership success and depth go hand-in-hand, and with the Premier Grade squad Easts have assembled this season, it’s no wonder why they are one of the competition’s favourites to lift the trophy come Grand Final day.
The Tigers strengthened their claims as contenders on the weekend at Sunnybank, as the side ran in 29 unanswered points in the second half to defeat the Dragons 51-24.
It was a tightly contested first half at the Bank, with Easts holding a narrow one-point lead at the break, before the class of the Tigers shone through, with the likes of Aidan Toua, Tom Milosevic and Landon Hayes, among others, combining to clinch their first win of 2020.
A quick look at the club’s Second Grade XV illustrates the incredible depth of squad head coach Moses Rauluni has assembled this year, with Kirwan Sanday, Phoenix Hunt, Rhys Jacks and Dylan Taikato Simpson among the quality players featuring in the team who routed Sunnybank 63-nil on Saturday before kick-off in the top grade.
Competition for spots will be huge at Tigerland this season, only adding to the strength of their Premier Grade team every week.
Tom Lucas, Hayden Sargeant and Zac Shepherd all impressed for the Bankers in the loss, while the club will be pleased after Liam McNamara successfully returned from an ACL injury.
Sunnybank will travel down the M1 this week to take on Bond University in the Bullsharks’ first outing of 2020, while Easts will face Wests at Toowong.
5. Queensland Premier Rugby is backAfter 349 days since the 2019 Grand Final, Queensland Premier Rugby made its triumphant return over the weekend, and how good was it to have club Rugby back in Brisbane.
Much has changed in the world since last year, but the passion, skill and quality of club Rugby has remained, and it was great to see teams from Colts to Premier Grade in action on Saturday.
But as we get back to some level of normality it is important to remember to adhere to the COVID Safe plans in place at each Rugby club, including directions pertaining to social distancing, hand hygiene, check-in processes at different venues and if you’re feeling unwell, stay home.