Panthers pounce with tough win over Seagulls

WESTS Panthers regained a share of second place on the Bundaberg Broadcasters A Grade Premiership ladder with a hard-fought 40-28 victory over fifth seed Hervey Bay Seagulls in their penultimate round clash on Sunday.


That was after Easts Magpies had jumped them after overcoming their highly spirited hosts, wooden spooners Wallaroos 38-28 at Eskdale Park Maryborough on Saturday night.


But Isis Devils slipped to fourth with 22 points, two behind Wests and Easts, after being ambushed as sixth placed Waves Tigers signed off on their season with a 27-22 upset.


Stung by a crushing loss to Brothers seven days earlier, the Panthers hit the ground running and they put their stamp on the match by racing to a 30-4 lead at half-time.


They relaxed and the Seagulls clawed their way back, but the bird had flown.


Former representative forward Dean Howard notched a double in a signature performance after only making his season debut for Wests after a stint in North Queensland in the previous round.


But captain/coach Brent Kuskey will be demanding an 80-minute effort this week heading into the play-offs.


Wallaroos also finished with a wet sail against Easts but it was too little too late and the Magpies held on with veteran lock Andrew Mason racking up two tries in a vintage display.


By contrast to the other two A Grade games of the weekend, Waves and Isis went to oranges locked together at 10-all, but somehow the Tigers managed just their third win of 2013 despite having tough second rower Anthony Broome sent off 12 minutes into the second stanza.


The youthful Tigers were well led by skipper and team senior statesman, halfback Rob McKeown and his younger brother and vice-captain Brendon, while livewire lock Chris Georgio also turned his usual big-hearted performance.


Despite their lean pickings this campaign, first-year coach and former Brisbane Broncos, Penrith Panthers and English Superleague star Sid Domic is happy with the progress they have made as a side and the emergence of many rising stars, and he is already looking to bigger and better things next season.


With Wests points differential of 198 significantly superior to both Easts (107) and Isis (62), they are likely to finish second even if they suffer an improbable defeat at the hands of Wallaroos in the first game of this weeks Men of League Triple Header Heritage round.


Isis will then do battle with Hervey Bay in what could be a prelude to a possible elimination final rematch a week later, but a big win to the Devils could elevate them into third position if the Magpies suffer a heavy loss to high flying minor premiers Brothers, who will be fresh from the bye.


The Devils will play in the finals but captain/coach Simon Ricciardi is ruing the one that got away from them and is hoping that they unleash their fury against the Seagulls, then Brothers can do them a favour and give them a double-chance in the play-offs by plucking the Magpies.


Easts 38 (Andrew Mason 2, Robert Hughes, Ryan Moss, Dane Richards, Jackson Van Mierlo, Gabriel Little tries; Hughes 5 goals) d Wallaroos 28 (David Ball, Alex Beatty, Luke Waters, Damien Otto, Sam Hutchins tries; Luke Beatty 3 goals).


Waves Tigers 27 (Nathan Jones, Barry Kalepo, Richard Saunders, Rob McKeown, Anthony Broome tries; Rob McKeown, Brendon McKeown, Daniel McLennan goals; McLennan field goal) d Isis 22 (James Bryant, Simon Ricciardi, Peter Grant, Tim Cole tries; Robert ODonnell 3 goals).


Wests 40 (Dean Howard 2, Quentin Olive, Michael Murphy, Josh Tanner, Morris Missi, Lyal Darby tries; Josh Tanner 6 goals) d Hervey Bay 28 (Tom Freshwater, Billy Stefaniuk, Brock Eldridge, Kurtis Everett, Anthony Lindeberg tries; Everett 4 goals).