Despite being without captain and halfback Andrew Cross and Queensland Rangers maestro Mat Templeman, Brothers overcame a 24-10 half-time deficit and having a player sent off in the 54th minute to grab a crucial 32-all draw with Wests in their Bundaberg Broadcasters A Grade Premiership top of the table showdown at Salter Oval on Sunday and so retain a two-point lead with six rounds to go.
They moved to 19 points, with the Panthers now on 17, followed just one point behind after they raced to a 58-0 half-time lead before the Tigers flew the white flag, with Isis Devils backing up their belting of Brothers a week earlier to again outmuscle Hervey Bay on their home turf at Stafford Park on Saturday night, getting home 32-18.
They lifted their tally to 14 points and advanced their position by one to fourth on the ladder, overtaking the Seagulls who remain anchored on 13 after back-to-back losses.
Easts Magpies picked up the two bye points to join the Seagulls on 13 points but after going through a horror patch before reclaiming their mojo four weeks ago, they still have a huge negative points differential of 144 to Hervey Bay's minus 30.
The beleaguered Tigers remained winless in the cellar with just four bye points and they officially withdrew from the competition for the season last night.
Reigning premiers Wests blew a golden opportunity to join the Brethren at the head if affairs.
With captain and lock Josh Tanner leading from the front, Bevan Page weaving his magic at halfback in tandem with promoted five-eighth Luke Owen and under-18 fullback Delroy Tanner and winger Kyee Fagg continuing to grow in confidence and each again grabbing a try, they dominated the first half.
And when young Brothers' interchange forward Joshua Pope was given his marching orders, it looked like being a matter if by how far for the Panthers but they were restricted to two unconverted tries for the half by a youthful Brothers side for whom big guns Brad Jung and Joel McCrea really aimed up in the forwards and centres Jack Rangeley and Tien Nguyen, who each scored a try, held their young back line together.
Jayden Alberts backed up from under-18 to steer the ship at halfback in his A Grade debut and score a great try along the way, while emerging winger Mirchell Gaul and Reserve grade winger Jarren Williams each also picked up a four-pointer, Andrew Filo did well at five-eighth in just his second game in the blue and white after his mid-season transfer from Avondale in the Northern Districts Rugby League, and under-18 Aidan Dempsey was a tower of strength at fullback.
Wallaroos were ruthless despite missing playmaker Roderique Gela, with his brother Gibson stepping into his halfback spot and wreaking havoc, but it was his halves partner and captain George Major and centre Roy Stretton who were the main beneficiaries with twin doubles, along with Jason Booth who came off the bench to join in the party with two tries of his own.
Roos host the Seagulls at Eskdale Park this Saturday, while Easts take on Brothers in a reduced program due to the Tigers’ exit, with the Panthers, who were due to play Waves, still picking up the automatic two points in a round which could have a major bearing on the make-up of the five finalists and their finishing positions.
Young wing sensation Billy Stefaniuk gave the Seagulls a perfect start at home with two tries in the first 13 minutes, but the Devils regrouped despite being without their game-breaking backs Kurt and Jake Thompson, wrestling a 20-8 half-time lead and going right on with the job with two of their Samoans Tanielu Pasene and Igitolo Poleka coming to the fore with the former opening their account in the 17th minute and finishing with a double and the latter chipping in with one.
Young local product Mitchell Bartlett stepped up to fill Jake Thompson’s big boots at fullback with a double of his own, while champion five-eighth Nathan Sullivan put the icing on the cake with their final try with seven minutes left on the clock, although the hosts claimed a consolation try in the dying minutes.
Wests defeated the Brethren 40-24 in Reserve grade with winger Tyrone Litfin the star with three tries, but Brothers tamed the Panthers 56-18 in under-18 with centre Luther Thompson, five-eighth Jayden Alberts and second rower Daniel Tamorua sharing the honours with two tries each.
The Tigers' only joy for the day came in under-18, where they overpowered Wallaroos 40-10 with centre Connor Jones leading the charge with a hat-trick of tries.
Isis 32 (Mitchell Bartlett 2, Tanielu Pasene 2, Isitolo Poleka, Nathan Sullivan tries; Robert O'Donnell 4 goals) d Hervey Bay 18 (Billy Stefaniuk 2, Chris Wicks, Brock Eldridge tries; Tyson Woodman goal).
Wallaroos 58 (Roy Stretton 2, George Major 2, Jason Booth 2,Josh Crowley, Mark Berkery, Luke Waters, tries; Luke Beatty 7, Stretton 2 goals) d Waves 0.
Wests 32 (Delroy Tanner, Kyee Fagg, Luke Owen, Solomon Little, Josh Tanner, Luke Davis tries; Josh Tanner 4 goals) drew Brothers 32 (Mitchell Gaul, Jack Rangeley, Tien Nguyen, Jarren Williams, Jayden Alberts tries; Andrew Filo 2, Nathan Moore 2 goals).