THREE teams are level on top of the Bundaberg Broadcasters A Grade Premiership table with a fourth team just one point behind them and a fifth just a further two points adrift heading into this Saturday's last round after Brothers surrendered the outright lead with a 52-14 annihilation by the rampant Easts Magpies at Salter Oval last weekend.
After Wests Panthers had joined Brothers on 23 points with a 42-14 drubbing of Wallaroos in the first A Grade match on the program, the Brethren needed to win to reclaim No. 1 position but without two of their stars in Joel McCrea and Jack Rangeley, they were embarrassed by the youthful Magpies who struck together their seventh straight victory and also moved to 23 points.
But they still trail on nett points differential with the Panthers boasting a healthy 190, Brothers' quotient reduced to 100 but it is still vastly superior to Easts' 16 with the Magpies' 156 points conceded over a horror two games on 25th May and 2nd June costing them a shot at the minor premiership.
Isis Devils rebounded from their disappointing loss to Brothers six days earlier, turning it on in their last home game of the season at Childers Showgrounds, leading Hervey Bay 42-4 at half-time before the beleaguered Seagulls flew the white flag and were unable to continue with a mounting injury toll.
The Seagulls have also forfeit their last round clash with Brothers this weekend, meaning that the Brethren will also receive a 20-point boost to their differential and will claim the minor premiership by default if Isis defeats Wests in the last game of the regular season this Saturday night.
If the reigning champions are victorious, they will finish at the head of affairs, with Brothers likely to wind up second, with Easts having to defeat Wallaroos earlier in the program by a highly improbable 105 points to nudge Brothers out of second.
Even if Isis succumbs to Wests, they will probably hang on to fourth as even if Roos are able to jump the Magpies, their nett points of 98 is well below Isis' 156.
Last Saturday, Easts were again mostly ruthless and clinical, putting an inept Brothers to the sword for the second time in four weeks despite switching off early in the second stanza.
The Magpies ran in four tries in the first 21 minutes, including two to powerhouse under-18 winger Cody Maughan, but they did not capitalise fully, being only able to convert one of them. Brothers eventually opened their account in the 29th minute through Easts junior product Aidan Dempsey, but the balance was quickly restored for the Magpies with Nick Tanner knocking over a couple of defenders on his way to the try-line for a 22-4 half-time lead.
Brothers scored two tries in the first eight minutes after the restart to get to within eight points, but they again gifted a try to Easts in their next set with the ball landing in the hands of under-18 centre Ben Marschke from a poor pass and the young gun strolling a short distance for his second four-pointer.
From there it was all too easy for the Black and White juggernaut as they piled on another four converted tries to crack the 50-point barrier, including also a second to outstanding young hooker Caleb Gazzard and one each to blockbusting front rowers, Maughan's elder brother Reece and Raymond Zysk, and to add salt to Brothers' wounds, one of their own former junior stars Jarrod Crook.
Ross had the better of the first half against the Panthers, leading 14-10 at oranges after a double to winger Gerard Tobane, but it was one-way traffic in the second 40 minutes with Wests turning it on to rack up an unanswered 32 points with flashy winger Daniel Mairu posting a hat-trick of tries and centre Kane Chapman bagging a double.
But to clinch the minor premiership, the Panthers will need to reverse a 40-26 thumping by the Devils just three weeks ago.
Still smarting from their submission to Brothers, the Devils came out all guns blazing against the Seagulls and they too were ruthless, with tough as teak front rower Peter Grant scoring two tries and causing constant havoc, explosive fullback Jake Thompson also crossing twice and hooker, captain/coach and one of the town's favourite sons, Simon Ricciardi, who will retire as a player at the end of the season, also among the tries in his swansong on home ground.
Like A Grade, the battle for Reserve grade positions will go right down to the wire with Hervey Bay staying on top with 22 points, ahead of Easts 21, Wests and Wallaroos, both on 20, but Isis capitalising on Maryborough Brothers' loss to the Seagulls by moving one point past them into the top five with a 52-16 blitz of Waves Tigers.
Three times defending women's champions Brothers took another minor premiership despite suffering their first loss of 2014, being blown away by Raidettes 32-12 in Gladstone in their last round.
Easts clinched the under-18 minor premiership with a 66-6 massacre of a 13-man Waves Tigers in their top of the table showdown with Marschke's twin Jesse leading the onslaught at lock with three tries.
Wests 42 (Daniel Mairu 3, Kane Chapman 2, Willie Nagas, Joel Fagan, Corey Tanner tries; Josh Tanner 5 goals) d Wallaroos 14 (Gerrard Tobane 2, Gibson Gela tries; Dan Gillan goal).
Easts 52 (Ben Marschke 2, Cody Maughan 2, Caleb Gazzard 2, Jarrod Crook, Nicholas Tanner, Reece Maughan, Raymond Zysk tries; Hayden Herbert 5, Kyle Laybutt goals) d Brothers 14 (Aidan Dempsey, Bryce Holdsworth, Tyson Whaleboat tries; Andrew Filo goal).
Isis 42 (Jake Thompson 2, Peter Grant 2, Heath Tisdell, Taylor Barritt, Simon Ricciardi, Jo Neilly tries; Robert O'Donnell 5 goals) d Hervey Bay 4 (Gry Togo try).