Ladder changes in Bundaberg
THERE was movement at the station on the Bundaberg Broadcasters A Grade Premiership table with Wests Panthers picking up forfeit points following Waves Tigers' withdrawal from the competition earlier in the week and joining Brothers at the head of affairs on 19 points and moving past them on nett points differential after the Brethren suffered a surprise 42-26 defeat at the hands of the lowly Easts Magpies at Salter Oval on Sunday.
By their win, the Magpies moved to 15 points and into the top five at the expense of Hervey Bay Seagulls, who slumped to their third straight loss, going down to their rampant hosts Wallaroos 42-28 at Eskdale Park on Saturday night and remain anchored on 13 points.
Roos moved to 18 points, now just one point from first position, and if they win this week, they would move into at least second position with the Panthers and Brethren to go head-to-head in the early A Grade match on Sunday's program at Salter Oval, although they face a tough task against Isis Devils, who are always extra hard to beat on their home turf at "The Furnace" at Childers Showgrounds where they will lock horns on Saturday night.
Much will also be at stake in that match as the Devils are on 16 points and if they are victorious, they will join Wallaroos in equal-third place, although if the Maryborough outfit gets the two points, they will shore up third berth, which carries the extra incentive of a double-chance in the finals.
Roos and the Seagulls were locked together at 12-all at half-time, but the Blue and White Express moved into top gear in the second stanza and ran away with the match after wing flyer Billy Stefaniuk was sent off in the 55th minute.
Captain and barnstorming second rower Mark Berkery led from the front for Wallaroos with a try in a signature robust all-round performance but crafty halfback Gibson Gela was their only multiple-try scorer with a double, while his brother Roderique, who is on the comeback trail after missing a few matches, came off the bench to chalk up 14 points with one try and five goals.
The Bay will be playing for their season when they do battle with Easts in the Match of the Day at Salter Oval this Sunday, needing to bounce back into the winners' list and keep their finals hopes alive.
Easts will go into the match with plenty of confidence after ambushing a woeful Brothers to make it a hat-trick of wins after going through a horror patch before re-signing quality halfback Kyle Laybutt from Sunshine Coast Sea Eagles a month ago.
As there were no under-18 games for the round, Easts' many young guns were fresh instead of having to back up from their age division for their second match, and the danger signs were flashing early for Brothers after Laybutt slipped through the middle of the ruck almost untouched for the opening try in the third minute.
Brothers were unable to correct their mostly non-existent defence around the edges as the Magpies raced to an 18-0 lead in just 12 minutes with further tries to under-18 talents winger Blake Moodie and hooker Caleb Gazzard and they went agonisingly close to two more tries in quick succession.
The Brethren improved and got it back to within four points at 18-14 down at half-time with centre Tien Nguyen finally opening their account in the 24th minute, then speed machine winger Chris Rose crossing twice, the first from an intercept as Easts tried to work the ball out of their red zone and the second from a superbly weighted Nguyen grubber on the first ruck from a scrum win 10 seconds before the break.
Brothers star Mat Templeman was ill after backing up after captaining the Queensland Rangers to 34-22 triumph over New South Wales Country Bulls in Rockhampton the previous night, and he was unable to return for the second half, and the Magpies pounced once again, with three more converted tries in quick succession in the 44th, 47th and 52nd minutes.
Brothers picked themselves up off the canvas with under-18 Nicholas Brotherton scoring on his A Grade debut off the bench and Rose completing a hat-trick after being put through a hole by second rower Joel McCrea, with Andrew Filo converting to reduce the margin to 10 points with 12 minutes left on the clock.
That was as close as they came as Easts defended superbly to jealously guard their lead, before Gazzard fittingly put the icing on the cake with his third try in the 78th minute, again burrowing over from dummy half.
Under-18 five-eighth Hayden Herbert, whose father Allan is the team coach, was another hero for the Magpies, kicking seven goals from as many attempts, including a couple from the side-lines, in an also polished all-round display in attack and defence.
While Easts savoured their best win of the year so far, Brothers need to regroup quickly after blowing a four-point lead on the ladder to now have a fight on their hands to avoid continuing to slide down the rankings after picking up just one draw point from their past three outings.
With no A Grade game due to Waves Tigers' demise, Wests Panthers went on the prowl in Reserve grade, taming the Tigers 54-12 with under-18 flyer Delroy Tanner, who has been starring in A Grade, cutting loose with five tries.
Brothers reigned supreme in their women's showdown with the Magpies, with halfback Jude Bust racking up a hat-trick of tries in a 32-0 white-wash.
Wallaroos 42 (Gibson Gela 2, Luke Waters, Roy Stretton, Damien Otto, Josh Crowley, Brad Davies, Roderique Gela tries; Roderique Gela 5 goals) d Hervey Bay 28 (Terry Horne, Dylan Dodd, Alex Braun, Tyson Woodman, Ethan West tries; Woodman 4 goals).
Easts 42 (Caleb Gazzard 3, Blake Moodie, Kyle Laybutt, Reece Maughan, Rhys Neil tries; Hayden Herbert 7 goals) d Brothers 26 (Chris Rose 3, Tien Nguyen, Nicholas Brotherton tries; Andrew Filo 3 goals).