Rd 15 adds further intrigue

THERE is no just three points between the top five sides with three rounds to go in the Bundaberg Broadcasters A Grade Premiership race following an amazing round 15 on the weekend.

After three losses and a draw from their previous four outings, Brothers returned to the winners' list at the expense of hosts Hervey Bay Seagulls 42-18 at Stafford Park on Saturday afternoon and moved to 21 points to reclaim a share of first position on the ladder with reigning champions Wests Panthers, who missed the chance to re-take the outright lead when they succumbed to the surging Isis Devils 40-26 in the match of the day at Salter Oval on Sunday afternoon.

By their victory, the Devils took their tally to 20 points after earlier that afternoon, the Easts Magpies juggernaugt continued with a 72-26 blitz of Wallaroos to also overtake them on the points standings, with 19 now to their credit, one more than Roos.

Wests and Brothers have been at the head of affairs all season, but with the finals just around the corner, the two form sides are definitely the youthful Easts, who have posted five straight victories, and Isis, who have won six of their past seven matches, broken only by a 32-28 defeat at the hands of the Magpies on 22nd June.

A then much depleted Easts had suffered one of the worst A Grade losses in the club's long and proud history when they previously met Roos, being massacred 92-0 on 25th May, and the Magpies' season was on life-support when they were also put to the sword 64-6 by Wests six days later.

But while once they got all their players back, they were always going to be an infinitely better team, the return of young halfback Kyle Laybutt from the Sunshine Coast Sea Eagles was the catalyst for getting them back on track.

Laybutt made his comeback for the Magpies in a very competitive 20-16 loss to the Seagulls at their next outing on 14th June, and they have swept all before them since then.

The excitement machine was again the maestro as Easts overcame the late scratching of the also red-hot five-eighth Hayden Herbert after he was sent off in their 60-12 drubbing of Brothers in under-18 earlier in the day.

Laybutt was at his brilliant best, setting up a 28-20 half-time lead and continuing to run amok as Black and White express piled on 44 points in a dazzling second stanza, and he finished with a personal tally of 28 points from two tries and 10 goals.

They had eight players doubling up from under-18, including five of their try scorers, among them being centre Cody Maughan and good mate winger Baidon Cooper, who each also registered doubles, along with rejuvenated former Queensland junior representative front rower Ray Zysk, who has been great in his first season with the club after a few years out of the game.

While Easts are running on youthful brilliance, Isis keep building momentum with hooker and captain/coach Simon Ricciardi orchestrating a perfect game which has been complemented significantly by their Samoan Visa players, with great power in the engine room, a halves pairing in Nathan Sullivan and Tim Cole which just keeps going to new levels every week, and club junior products brothers Kurt and Jake Thompson their most lethal weapons in an also explosive back line.

Uncompromising front rower Peter Grant again led the charge on Sunday with a double, and they blew the Panthers off the park, to the extent of leading by 26 points with 10 minutes to go, before Wests salvaged a bit of pride with two late converted tries.

Meanwhile, the Seagulls had to win at home to resurrect their season, but after trailing just 12-8 at the break, they again surrendered as the Brethren snapped their losing streak, running away with the game despite only converting three of their nine tries.

Brothers wing flyer Chris Rose grabbed his second three-try haul from their last three games, but while they will have gained confidence from the breakthrough, they will need to improve greatly if they are to turn the tables on Isis in the match of the round at Salter Oval this Sunday afternoon.

If Isis get the two points, they could find themselves in unfamiliar territory in No. 1 berth if Easts are able to account for Wests in the early game on that program in a round which will have a major bearing on the make-up of the top five teams for the finals.

With the Seagulls having to win their remaining three games, starting this Saturday night at Eskdale Park Maryborough against a smarting Wallaroos, who always take a power of beating at home, followed by Isis and Brothers, and also having to rely on Roos losing their last two round games against Wests and Easts respectively to edge them out of fifth place, it is do or die for the Bay but after five straight thrashings, they may need some divine intervention against a Blue and White outfit which will be desperate to again reign supreme after back-to-back defeats.    

Reserve grade is just as tight as A Grade with only two points separating the first four teams and the fifth side just two points behind and sixth another two further adrift.

The Seagulls stretched their points lead to two points despite being held to a 26-all draw by cellar dwellers Waves Tigers.

They moved to 20 points, with three teams now on 18, Wests, Wallaroos and Easts, after the Panthers were sunk by a hat-trick to five-eighth Gabe Little in a 34-22 loss to the Devils, who climbed to 14 points, Roos were outgunned by the Magpies 40-30, and fifth seed Maryborough Brothers picked up two points courtesy of a Bundaberg Brothers forfeit.

Three-times defending women's premiers Brothers powered on with a 46-0 white-wash of Roos with their Queensland open representative fullback Kady Tinker notching a hat-trick and state star of the previous few years, vice-captain and five-eighth Nicole Curtis bagging a double.

Brothers 42 (Chris Rose 3, Tien Nguyen, Mat Templeman, Nathan Webster, Joel McCrea, Jack Rangeley, Jamie Turnbull tries; Nathan Moore 2, Turnbull goals) d Hervey Bay 18 (Clinton Horne, Alex Braun, Michael Robinson tries; Terry Horne 3 goals).

Easts 72 (Cody Maughan 2, Baidon Cooper 2, Kyle Laybutt 2, Jarrod Crook, Ben Schrader, Kale Stibbards, Caleb Gazzard, Shaun Swift tries; Laybutt 10 goals) d Wallaroos 26 (David Ball, Kaine Rowles, Ben Turner, Gibson Gela, Nathan Jarvis tries; Don Gillen 3 goals).

Isis 40 (Peter Grant 2, Jake Thompson, Heath Tisdell, Tim Cole, Telefoni Iakopo tries; Robert O'Donnell 6 goals) d Wests (Daniel Mairu, Delroy Tanner, Kane Chapman, Waylon Eggmolesse, Hayden Priestley, Leon Baldry tries; Bevan Page 7 goals).