BROTHERS reclaimed the outright lead in the Bundaberg Broadcasters A Grade Premiership after six rounds with a last-gasp 18-14 victory over fierce rivals Isis Devils at Salter Oval on Saturday night.
That was after the youthful Easts Magpies survived a late challenge from cellar dwellers Waves Tigers to wrap up a 34-26 win with a late try to reserve back Dylan Rogers.
At Stafford Park, hosts Hervey Bay Seagulls scored a crucial triumph, sentencing reigning premiers Wests Panthers to their second straight defeat after winning their first three games of the season, with the Seagulls flying high 26-14 on the back of a brilliant all-round performance by exciting young five-eighth Terry Horne, who amassed 14 points with two tries and three conversions.
Both Brothers and Isis were missing a number of stars and their completion rates were extremely low from the start, and the major feature of the game was the brutal defence of each.
Rampaging Brothers front rower Brad Jung drew first blood in the sixth minute and he also scored another try five minutes before the break to give them the lead 12-10 at oranges but he sustained a leg injury in doing so and was forced off, only to return “on one leg” late in the game to provide some much needed go-forward and inspiration.
The Devils had established a six-point buffer with two superb tries to their mercurial five-eighth Nathan Sullivan in the space of nine minutes midway through the half.
They regained the ascendancy by two points when pocket dynamo hooker and captain/coach Simon Ricciardi darted over untouched from dummy-half four minutes into the second stanza.
While the Devils were unable to add further to their tally, the Brethren never again seriously threatened with a mounting injury toll, including Queensland Rangers star Mat Templeman, who had started on the bench because of injury, until centre Tien Nguyen, in his return match for the club after two seasons with Sunshine Coast Falcons, snatched the two points from the jaws of defeat with a good try with 60 seconds left on the clock after he had scored the try to get them back within two points late in the first half.
Nathan Moore then kicked a side-line conversion after the siren to add salt to the devastated Devils’ wounds.
Fresh from his Central Crows A Grade team selection after the 47th Battalion Carnival a week earlier, workaholic Brothers second rower Joel McCrea was again outstanding, topping the hit-ups and tackle counts with 25 and 41 respectively.
Under-rated hooker Bryce Holdsworth also tackled everything in his sight in the second 40 minutes with 23 bone-crunchers for a total of 34, while winger Jarren Williams also drew praise from coach Shaun Hobson for a fine effort on A Grade debut.
The Devils also had many heroes, headed by Ricciardi, and they can draw plenty of heart from their performance that they can challenge for the title once they overcome their handling errors and have all their guns on deck.
The Magpies went into their match as hot favourites and they put their stamp on the contest by opening up an 18-4 lead at the break, but they received a big wake-up call and were forced to dig deep after seemingly dropping their guard.
The Tigers came alive and stormed back to within four points in the dying minutes, with Tongan centre Inoke Poleo grabbing a double, and they had the chance to draw level with a set inside the Magpies’ red zone, but Easts held firm, before second rower Zak Bainbridge set up the match sealer with an 80-metre run down the right flank.
With Waves’ line still trying to regroup, the ball was spun across the field on the next play for Rogers to finish off and drive a dagger into the brave Tigers’ hearts.
Six Magpies were backing up after featuring in a 42-10 drubbing of Brothers in under-18 earlier in the afternoon, including try scorers, Brothers junior products fullback Jarrod Crook and interchange dynamo Kyle Spry, Rogers and winger Ben Schrader, who had run in three tries at centre in his own age group.
A sidelight of the game was Spry’s elder brother Blake also picking up a try for Waves, who welcomed back young five-eighth Daniel McLennan, who had started the season in Brisbane and provided real extra potency in their attack at five-eighth.
Brothers are now on 10 points, two in advance of Wests and pride of Maryborough Wallaroos, who had the bye, with the Seagulls and Magpies each on seven, followed by the Devils on five and the winless Tigers with two bye points.
The Magpies' women were beaten, going down to the slick Cherbourg 38-12 with flashy fullback Tarneecia Douglas chalking up a hat trick of tries and lock Sophia Fisher netting a double.
Brothers 18 (Brad Jung 2, Tien Nguyen 2 tries; Nathan Moore goal) d Isis 14 (Nathan Sullivan 2, Simon Ricciardi tries; Sullivan goal).
Easts 34 (Jarrod Crook, Caleb Gazzard, Rhys Neil, Zak Bainbridge, Kyle Spry, Dylan Rogers tries; Zak Bainbridge 5 goals) d Waves 26 (Inoke Poleo 2, Connor Jones, Blake Spry, Nathan Jones tries; Daniel McLennan 3 goals).
Hervey Bay 26 (Terry Horne 2, Brendan Braam, Dylan Dodd, Tyson Woodman tries; Horne 3 goals) d Wests 14 (Kye Fagg, Bevan Page, Brad Pfeffer tries; Page goal).