The 2023 Sunshine Coast rugby union champions have been crowned as coaches and captains highlight the major moments and key players. Read every match recap.
After Nambour were able to edge out Noosa in the third grade grand final on Friday night, the remaining six teams took to the field on Saturday at the University of the Sunshine Coast.
We were there to cover all of the action from play-by-play moments, game-breaking talking points and standout players.
Nambour vs Caloundra – Senior Women’s
It was a battle for field possession in the opening 10 minutes with neither side controlling the game.
Nambour’s Bek Murtagh opened the scoring on the left hand side before Lily Payne showcased some great individual skill, beating her opposition player before drawing in the fullback and unselfishly dishing the ball to Jennifer Ladewig to score.
Murtagh slotted the conversion centimetres in from the left hand touchline but Caloundra mustered some strength and hit back thanks to a great run from Tangiora Armstrong before she was stopped short of the line.
The Lighthouse were able to string a few more phases together before Meghan De Maroussem snuck through for their first points of the match.
Nambour continued to fire from anywhere on the field with Eva Johnston breaking through untouched for their third try in the first half but Caloundra responded with a much needed try just before halftime.
The match resumed with the scores 21-10 but Nambour would remain a player down for at least another four minutes after Lilli Guilfoyle was sent for 10 prior to the Caloundra second try.
A player down was a kind invitation for Caloundra who strung together some nice passes early on before Ruby Pascoe scored and Jade Golchert was successful with her conversion.
The energy and roll-on continued for Caloundra, who after a series of scrums and breakdowns in the middle of the park, capitalised thanks to another piece of individual heroics from their fly half Tangiora Armstrong.
With 10 minutes to go Caloundra led by just one point but the scoreline changed again after Nambour continued to knock on the door by creating space and opportunities before Johnston crossed for her second and reclaimed the lead.
Following eight minutes of injury time, the match ended in heartbreak for Caloundra and elation for Nambour with the referee ending the match 26-22.
Nambour captain Milly Russell was ecstatic post match.
“There was a bit of miscommunication with us all at the end and I think the adrenaline was going all out but we all knew what we had to do to hold our line,” she said.
“I’m very proud of the girls and to see the journey from throughout the season has been absolutely amazing.
“We’ve got a lot of young guns in our team, seven or eight of them are still in high school, so to see them competing and stepping up to this level is amazing and they all have a lot of potential.”
Player points rating:
3 – Bek Murtagh (Nambour)
2 – Eva Johnston (Nambour)
1 – Tangiora Armstrong (Caloundra) and Lily Payne (Nambour)
University vs Noosa – Reserve Grade
In their fourth straight reserve grade grand final the Barbarians began the match strong but were unable to claim any decent possession which saw Noosa open the scoring with back-to-back penalty kicks from in front.
The Dolphins continued on with their early momentum, keeping University within an arm‘s reach of touching the ball before Alfie Hill crossed under the sticks for the first try of the match.
Some nice phrases from the Barbarians with some positive field position allowed them to open their account thanks to damaging prop forward Ash Platz.
The Dolphins hit back with some great left-side link-up play between Tim Moody and Josh Munro that was finished off by their winger Jack Davies but University responded with a try of their own to close the gap to just four points before halftime.
The home side stormed out of the gates in the second half, scoring two clinical quick tries from Daniel Kenny and Ethan Duck which somewhat silenced the Noosa crowd.
Some poor mistakes from Noosa inside their own 20m line was an invitation to USC who capitalised with a try after a cross field drop-goal attempt.
Barbarians fullback Jordan Armstrong was sent for 10 in the bin before Noosa hit back with two quick tries of their own, narrowing USC’s lead to five points.
Barbarians fly half Dean Stafford slotted a penalty kick from 30m out but with the home fans crying out for the final whistle Noosa scored once more to close the gap.
That wasn’t enough though as the match eventually ended 38-35.
USC captain Will Kleinschmidt said the halftime team talk proved to be the difference.
“We pulled ourselves together at the end of that first half and knew what our job was in the second half as we knew we had the wind working with us,” he said.
“It was really tough out there, Noosa always put up a good fight so I’m really proud of our boys.
“Our forwards worked hard all day but I‘ve got to thank my halfback Jayme Huysamen.
“He was great all game along with Kendall Gemmell, Josh Mostert and obviously our coaching staff.”
Player points rating:
3 – Jayme Huysamen (USC)
2 – Dean Stafford (USC)
1 – Josh Munro (Noosa) and Jordan Armstrong (USC)
University vs Caloundra – A-Grade
Neither side wanted to give an inch early, playing very safe and within their means in the opening 10 minutes.
Barbarians forward Eugene Gerrard was sent for 10 in the bin for a high tackle which saw Caloundra fly half Mac Burgess open the scoring with a successful penalty kick before Cam Davies was able to produce a crafty left foot step off the back of a scrum to score under the posts.
An explosive run from Barbarians winger Dan Tabuakuru allowed him to find some open space, landing USC in some damaging field position which saw Dan Ramsay score for the home side.
USC kept the pressure on, hardly allowing Caloundra out of their own half before constructing a lovely driving maul to level the scores at 10-10 thanks to hooker Cory Tehuia.
The Lighthouse didn’t help themselves with Burgess being sent to the sin bin for a deliberate knock on as the Barbarians began to turn up the heat and executed a lovely team try in the left hand corner.
University looked to be on the attack again before the visitors managed to find a lucky escape with winger Tom Roper blitzing the opposition to run over 80m and score near the right upright.
The teams came out of the second half with the scores 17-15 in favour of Caloundra but it was the Barbarians who scored first through halfback Jona Koroiadi.
A deflected and charged down Caloundra kick allowed USC winger Shayden Stevens to capitalise on the loose ball, kicking it into the in goal area and diving on it to eventually extend the lead 27-17.
Caloundra were able to march down the field and score after some solid forward phases and the wind proved no match for Burgess as he slotted the extra points to bring the game within three.
With just under three minutes remaining it was the Barbarians scrum that proved the difference, winning a penalty on an opposed feed but losing the lineout seconds later helped Caloundra win a penalty and Burgess slotted an extra three points to tie the game at 27-27.
The match extended into injury time as USC stormed into the danger zone, winning a penalty and opting for the scrum yet again just metres from their tryline.
The brute strength proved too much to handle for Caloundra as the men in green pushed over the tryline for Tom McKee to place the ball down for the match winning try.
The referee called time on the match with the scores 34-27 for University to claim their third premiership in a row.
Head coach Brad Tronc was extremely proud of his players.
“It’s been a pretty good journey and I’m lucky to have some great people around me,” he said.
“I keep saying I’m just one piece of the puzzle alongside this coaching staff and the workers behind the scenes.”
Captain Luke Kimber said it was a tough fought match.
“We had to work for it which is a huge credit to Caloundra, they really bought it to us today as we had to knuckle down to get the job done,” he said.
Both Kimber and Tronc knew the scrums would be the game’s point of difference.
“We wanted to play into our scrums which comes off the back of our hard work all season,” Tronc said.
“It’s a massive credit to Eugene Gerrard for the work he’s put in their as a player and coach so pumped to get the win and secure the triple.”
“Eugene is a machine and then you’ve got Matt Waudby coming off the bench so you don’t even have to push sometimes,” Kimber said.
“It’s not easy to build a club up from where it’s been to now three peats and back-to-backs in both grades, you can’t beat it.
“A lot of people build you up to try and chop you down but we’re just going to hold on for as long as we can.”
Player points rating:
3 – Eugene Gerrard (USC)
2 – Matt Lieder (USC) and Jordan Meads (USC)
1 – Mac Burgess (Caloundra)