Saints defence off to great start
USQ Saints got their Risdon Cup premiership defence off to a positive start on Saturday with a hard-fought victory over Toowoomba Bears at USQ Oval.
Saints had their nose in front throughout the match but had to fight off a desperate late charge from the Bears before walking off with a 28-24 win.
Both sides were below full strength for the round-one match with a number of players away on representative duties.
But despite the warm playing conditions and team lists missing some regular names, both sides showed supporters encouraging early-season signs.
The game also provided Uni coach Greg Covery with a winning start at the club.
Covery took on the role this month after victorious 2011 coach Gary Briscoe relinquished the role due to work commitments.
Saints opened the scoring in the 15th minute through a converted try to scrum-half Shaun Qualischefski.
Five minutes later, fullback Geoff Hammond helped stretch the advantage to 14-0 when he crossed for a try.
Declan Wilson put Bears first points on the board in the 32nd minute with a try in the corner.
But a smart individual try to captain Mitch Logan and a fourth converted try from former under-19 player Tristan Law in the 38th minute set up a handsome 28-5 halftime lead for USQ.
Bears, to their credit, rallied after the break and managed to keep Saints scoreless in the second session. They crossed for three tries of their own through Hugh Reardon, Josh Brown and Terry Harvey to get within four points of Uni.
Bears continued to press Saints line in the closing minutes looking for a match-winner before time finally ran out.
Convery had some words of praise for both teams as he happily pocketed his first Risdon Cup win.
"Our first half was great but we did it tougher in the second half with no ball," Covery said.
"But the good first half is where the game was won for us. Full marks to Bears as well. They fought it right out to the finish after giving away a big lead at halftime."
Bears assistant coach Max Fairbanks was also impressed with his under-strength team's performance. "We're happy enough with that considering everything," Fairbanks said. "We have quite a few players to come back so there are some good early signs."