The Biloela Panthers reaffirmed themselves as genuine premiership front-runners in the Rockhampton Senior Rugby League A-Grade competition on Saturday night, with a comprehensive 30-16 victory over the CQU Norths Chargers at Browne Park.
Despite fielding a vastly different team to that of their previous round clash against the Seagulls – missing a staggering 10 regular A-grade players through work and travel commitments and the services of team hard-man Casey Rodgers to suspension - the Panthers still managed to fire and delivered their most dominant performance this season.
After weathering the early stinging defence from the Chargers, the visitors shot out to a 16-0 lead inside the opening 10 minutes. A chip-kick to the corner saw winger Zane Elliott fly high and brilliantly bat the ball back into the field of play for back-rower Brendan Malloy to cross for their opening try.
In the absence of chief playmaker Dan Martin, halfback Cameron Curse stamped his authority – scoring a double and lending hand in a number of others with some crafty blind-side running and scrum-base play – in a feat that resembled that of an A-Grade player years his senior.
It was a true break-out performance from the young halfback who although humble in receiving praise for his performance remained focused on the task at hand and delivered for his team when they needed it most.
“I definitely knew I had to take more responsibility with Dan (Martin) out and I was very happy with the way the boys handled things,” Curse said.
“Our defensive effort tonight was outstanding, I thought we really muscled up against a tough pack and controlled the ball really well when it mattered most. They came at us pretty hard at the end – a few big hits but the boys held strong. Very happy with the win.”
A Ben Maddick double either side of the break kept the Chargers in the game momentarily, who at times looked like they could pinch victory, however the Panthers’ monster forward pack continued to lay the platform while withstanding the bullying defence from their opponents. Further tries to Paul Steele and outside flyer Tobia Viravu effectively putting the game out of reach for the home side.
In the other game to complete round 5, the Yeppoon Seagulls managed to hold out a courageous Brothers outfit to take top spot on the League ladder, with a 30-18 victory at Webb Oval.
The Seagulls made their intentions clear early and claimed an 18-6 lead, only to drift away from their initial game plan - opting to play a more expansive style of football and consequently gifting possession to the opposition.
With an increase of ball-in-hand, the young Brethren side clicked into gear and clawed their way back into the game - locking it up at 18-18. The scored remained unchanged for the majority of the second half after some desperate goal-line defence from both sides.
However the experienced duo of Lewis McPhail and Dean Blackman came to the fore for the home side in the final 10 minutes, controlling the game to perfection and deflating any hope the gallant Brothers side had in claiming the major scalp of the competition’s frontrunners.
Biloela 30 (Tobs Nailesu Yiruavu 1, Raymond Austin 1, Cameron Curtis 2, Paul Steele 1, Brendan Malloy 1 Goals Zane Elliot 3) def Norths 16 (Ben Maddick 2, Bryan Spence 1 Goals Dean Allen 2)
Yeppoon 30 (Ned Graving 1, Jye Schafer 1, Alex Choyce 1, Dean Blackman 2 Goals Shannon Rupapere 5) def Brothers 18 (Todd Russell 1, Peter Spanner 1, Ashley Ketchell 1 goals Grant Rogers 3)
Reserve – Yeppoon Seagulls 36 def Rockhampton Brothers 8
Knights 20 def Biloela 6
U20 – Norths 52 defFitzroy 0
Yeppoon 46 def Brothers 12