QUICK WRAP: Falcons vs Devils
7 May 2023 - Sunshine Coast play Norths in round 8 of the Queensland Cup on Sunday afternoon at Sunshine Coast Stadium, Bokarina
Was the game worth watching?
This was not a featured game, so it takes a special kind of sicko - certainly someone with some kind of weird pathos - to watch a full 80 minutes of uncommentated Queensland Cup. I am that sicko. I hope for your sake that you are not.
It was a reasonable game insofar as these things go.
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The opening five minutes of the game was a real arm wrestle but Norths got the ascendancy and used broken play to skip past the Coast’s defensive line ad score twice. By quarter time, it looked like the Devils’ game to lose and the Falcons hadn’t turned up. The set that ended in Jono Reuben scoring in the corner started by the Falcons playing the ball without a dummy half and the Devils forcing a turnover. I haven’t seen that in a long time.
Brad Henderson did something funky with Polselli’s and Nikorima’s minutes but once the first shift change was out of the way, the Falcons worked their way back into the game and took the lead shortly after half time. The second shift change tilted the balance of the game back in favour of the Devils, briefly, but once Sua Faalongo crossed for what would be the final try, heads went down. The last ten minutes played out ineffectually and with more than a few errors. It wasn’t clear that the Falcons were the better team, despite the scoreboard, and the stats reveal why.
The reason we check the stats is because it’s not always immediately apparent exactly what’s happening from a whole-of-game, high level perspective. For example, I would have guessed that possession was pretty close to an even split in this game. It was not. Sunshine Coast were deprived of the ball, albeit through their excess of errors (+5) and penalties (+3). The Devils used that ball to stomp the Falcons into the mud in the territory battle and gave up half a WARG. And yet, the black and golds managed to come out on top. Looks can be deceiving.
Under the Microscope
Before we compare him directly to the Hunters’ fullback, Morea Morea, and Bears’ fullback and Titans’ prospect, Keano Kini, let’s acknowledge that this wasn’t the Sunshine Coast Falcons’ finest day. Consequently, there were fewer opportunities for today’s fullback, the Sunshine Coast’s Sualauvi Faalogo, to shine.
Faalogo is in his second season in Cup with the Falcons. He’s a prospect the Storm have been nursing through their systems, having played SG Ball and Jersey Flegg for the Thunderbolts. He seems to be an honest to god Victorian and of Fijian extraction.
Let’s look at the tools. Speed:
(this was called back for a penalty to the Falcons, which the refs agreed later should have been play on)
Perhaps it is actually a pretty good reel. Faalogo seemed to get more involved and warm into the contest as time passed, however, there isn’t a single obvious moment where he puts it all together. He comes from way out of shot to score the match winning try off Nikorima’s kick, which is, in its own way, impressive.
There’s some talk the Storm are expecting him to evolve into a winger but he doesn’t look like a yardage guy, having been easily contained on a few early kick returns. Faalogo might be more like a Khan-Pereira than a Maika Sivo. For now, he’s plenty of fun to watch.
Taking Norths’ body of work together so far, we have a team that is 2-4-2 after eight games. Of their four losses, the Falcons were beaten by the Bears by six, by Tweed by six, by the Falcons by four and got absolutely annihilated by the Capras. It could be a very different season if a few more things went the Devils way but it’s looking decreasingly likely that we’ll see a three-peat or even that Norths will be in the finals.
Norths had 320 extra metres today and couldn’t get it done. They’re conceding nearly 24 points per game and, while they are averaging slightly more points scored, it’s clear that the Devils aren’t a good defensive team when faced with anyone outside the bottom five or six teams in the comp.
The Falcons should be thinking about September and how they’re going to earn their way to Dolphins Oval. The Bears and Capras do appear to be slightly in front but if the Birds can tidy it up, they’ll be more than competitive. Sunshine Coast currently has the equal best points difference in the comp.
Xavier Willison is enormous and looks pretty handy out there. We’ll put him under the microscope for the next Norths featured game.
There was a good battle of the rakes with the Falcs’ Wishart and the Devs’ Horne both turning in highly produtive performances (they both scored tries and scooted a bit from dummy half).
Like Jonah Pezet last week, Jock Madden should be finding this easy. He spent most of the game looking like Bryce Donovan with a slightly bigger boot and a faster turn of speed. That is not meant to be complimentary. He put in a good kick for Ahearn’s try and loves to accelerate on a left side shift but it didn’t come to much and was resposible for conceding the first try by not holding his place in the line.
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