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The James Ackerman Cup is once again heading south after a hot Redcliffe Dolphins put the struggling Sunshine Coast Falcons to the sword on Saturday afternoon at Sunshine Coast Stadium, winning 34-24.

The James Ackerman Cup is a highlight for both teams on their annual calendar and is signified by the attendance of the Ackerman family, along with a touching pre-game ceremony to commemorate the prop forward's passing in 2015.

After struggling to put back-to-back wins together so far this season, the Falcons looked tense to start the game, and settled in to a grinding arm wrestle.

With both teams making errors and giving away early penalties, it took 18 minutes for the first points to be scored. Redcliffe centre Rocco Berry stamped his name on the score sheet first after the Dolphins right edge attack clicked into gear.

Once the visitors found a path to the try line, they persisted with a consistent barrage of attacking raids down the Falcons left-side defence.

The Dolphins' persistence paid off time and again, and only seven minutes after crossing for the first try of the game, Berry bagged himself a first half double in an almost identical fashion to his first.

The first half was rounded out by the Dolphins' third try of the game, this time with Berry getting a great pass away to his winger Edward Kosi who crashed over in the corner, leaving the half-time score at 16-0.

The Falcons flicked a switch at the break and came out with a point to prove.

Jack Howarth. Photo: Nicky Weise/QRL
Jack Howarth. Photo: Nicky Weise/QRL

The halves combination of Jarrod Mullen and Todd Murphy appeared to share the playmaking duties equally, looking to swing the momentum back in the Falcons favour with both halves orchestrating slick backline moves until finally the home side hit back with a try of their own.

While the momentum did appear to shift, the Falcons dominance was fleeting after Mullen left the field for a head injury assessment 10 minutes into the second half, and shortly after, Murphy found himself in the sin bin.

The loss of their two key playmakers and defending back-to-back-to-back sets with only 12 men ensured the Falcons never got themselves back into the game, and the Dolphins didn’t need an invitation to pry the James Ackerman Cup out of the Sunshine Coast's hands, as they piled on three tries in quick succession while the Falcons were a man down.

Once Murphy came back onto the field, he was instrumental in taking control of the attack on both sides of the field, and in the last 10 minutes, the Falcons crossed three times, two of which were off the back of carefully-weighted Murphy grubbers.

In a special round for both teams, the Falcons will be encouraged by their determination to get themselves back into the game, but it was too little too late, and Redcliffe will be proud to hold onto the James Ackerman Cup until 2022.

Sunshine Coast will now turn their attention to their Round 10 matchup against the Brisbane Tigers - who much like the Falcons - are looking to find some consistency before crossing the halfway mark of the 2021 campaign.

As for Redcliffe, they’ll play host to the Burleigh Bears and depending on other results, could find themselves pushing for a top four spot.

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