WESTS Panthers caused the upset of the Bundaberg Broadcasters A Grade Premiership season, staving off three times defending champions Brothers 44-40 after extra-time in the major semifinal at Salter Oval on Saturday night.


Having had the penultimate round bye, then having the first week of the finals off as minor premiers, it was just Brothers' second game in a month, and after having also rested seven of their stars who had been carrying injuries in the last round, they were noticeably rusty and low on match fitness, but somehow they led 22-10 when Queensland Rangers star Mat Templeman was sin-binned in the 34th minute.


The Panthers pounced with their captain/coach and hooker Brent Kuskey, who led Brothers to glory last year before returning to his original club, scored his second try on the stroke of half-time and another of their representative stars Josh Tanner converted.


They levelled the scores just before Templeman's return, then took a 10-point lead with bulky winger Joel Turaga plunging over for his second try on the back of another penalty six minutes later and Brent Kuskey completing a personal hat trick and Tanner again raising the flags with 21 minutes on the clock.


Wests' defence then came to the fore as Brothers repeatedly threw everything at them, only to be denied until they sent it into two 10-minute halves of extra-time with front rower Ikuna Manuofetoa powering over in the 77th minute but Nathan Moore missing a simple conversion and winger Josh Anderson completing a superb team try with 47 seconds remaining but this time Moore converting after the siren.


Wests again rallied in extra-time with inspirational one arm amputee winger and Reserve grade player/coach Jimmy Wilkinson crossing in his first A Grade game of the season in the first minute, Tanner landing another sideline conversion and stalwart Leon Baldry forcing his way over under the posts and Tanner giving them a 12-point buff four minutes later.


The Brethren hit back with two tries to start the second half of extra-time but were not able to convert either, and they ultimately fell four short despite their best efforts over the last five minutes.


They will have to lick their wounds for their preliminary final showdown this Sunday against Easts Magpies, who held off a valiant Hervey Bay Seagulls 38-20 in the minor semifinal.


The Seagulls were without their Bundaberg Representative Player of the Year Tyrone Hopgood, who had been suspended on a tripping charge in the elimination final win a week earlier, and the Magpies put their stamp on the game, opening up a 22-4 half-time advantage.


But the Seagulls dug deep and got back to 26-20 with 13 minutes to go when their under-18 halfback Sam Burns, who was recently by the Canterbury Bulldogs, grabbed his second try and Tom Freshwater kicked truly.


However the Magpies big guns stepped up to the plate with five-eighth Matt Tanner, who was a constant threat in tandem with halfback Josh Garden, cutting a swathe through the defence for a try before converting himself and club president and front rower Anthony Evans barging over for his second four-pointer to deliver the knock-out blow in the 77th minute.


In Reserve grade, minor premiers Hervey Bay booked a place in the decider with a 42-24 win over Maryborough Brothers, while Easts eliminated Wests with a 34-22 victory at their expense.


Under-18 minor premiers Fraser Coast were toppled by Easts 32-24, while beaten qualifying finalists Waves Tigers got back on track and kept their hopes alive with five-eighth Daniel McLennan bagging a hat-trick of tries in a 38-10 blitz of Murgon Mustangs.


Women's two-times defending champions and minor premiers Brothers are the first team through to the grand final after out shining Easts 28-6, while halfback Tarneecia Douglas also notched three tries in Isis Devils' 54-10 minor semi-final drubbing of Wests.


Major semi: Wests 44 (Brent Kuskey 3, Joel Turaga 2, Jimmy Wilkinson, Aaron Kuskey, Leon Baldry tries; Josh Tanner 6 goals) d Brothers 40 (Mat Templeman 2, Shaun Collins, Peni Tuakalau, Josh Anderson, Matt Hall, Ikuna Manuofetoa tries; Nathan Moore 4 goals).


Minor semi: Easts 38 (Anthony Evans 2, Jarrod Johnson, Matt Tanner, Josh Garden, Andrew Mason, Dane Richards tries; Robert Hughes 4, Tanner goals) d Hervey Bay 20 (Sam Burns 2, Terry Horne, Ashley O'Donnell tries; Tom Freshwater, Horne goals).