ISIS Devils are now the only unbeaten team in the 2015 Bundaberg Broadcasters A Grade Premiership after bursting Hervey Bay Seagulls' bubble with a hard-fought 26-18 home victory over them in their third round showdown at "The Furnace" at Childers Showgrounds on Saturday night.
The Seagulls had started their season in the best possible fashion with wins over Brothers and Wallaroos respectively, while the Devils had had the opening round bye before methodically disposing of perennial battlers Waves Tigers. But Isis really stepped up to the plate, forging ahead 8-6 by the break, and never relenting, ultimately prevailing five tries to three.
Earlier on the program, Brothers also notched their second win of the season, shutting out Maryborough side Wallaroos 46-0, while two-times defending champions Wests Panthers opened their account with an uninspiring 28-14 triumph at the expense of the Tigers.
The Seagulls were being touted as title favourites after their blazing start to their quest for the Holy Grail, but the Devils, who were beaten grand finalists last year, showed that they also have the potential to go one better, with coach Simon Ricciardi, who had also been their long serving captain and hooker but hung up his playing boots to focus on mentoring the side in 2015, lauding a robust team performance.
New captain and rampaging front rower Peter Grant truly led from the front, including powering over for a try, while Queensland Rangers representative Nathan Sullivan, who has been moved from five-eighth to fill Ricciardi's big little boots at hooker, also crossed, along with two of their other big guns, second rowers Robert O'Donnell and Jake Thompson, who also has a new role after previously wreaking havoc at fullback, and winger Zac Dann.
Dann, who made a late-season comeback in August after missing the first five months following knee surgery, and was fresh from playing a starring role in Isis' Bundaberg Division 3 cricket premiership, also kicked three goals in a signature polished all-round showing despite spending 10 minutes in the sin-bin.
The Devils will face another test when they take on Brothers when action returns to Bundaberg's Salter Oval for the first time this season this Saturday night.
Brothers, who were beaten by Wallaroos in the corresponding match last year, put their stamp on the game by establishing a 12-0 half-time lead, and they went right on with the job.
Top-class Hervey Bay Seagulls product Tom Quill, who previously played for Brothers in 2013, led the charge in his return in blue and white, breaking the shackles with a double in a domineering display at five-eighth.
High-profile front row recruit Kevin Sherriff also picked up a four-pointer, together with former Avondale Tigers Northern Districts premiership winning centre Corey Chapman, returning Tongans wrecking ball Vahiti Hopoi, wing flyer Chris Rose, second row ace Joel McCrea and ultra-consistent interchange front rower Nathan Webster, while winger John Akers, who returned home after playing last season with Easts Magpies, kicked seven goals.
The Tigers were always going to be up against it after taking to the field against the Panthers with just two players on the bench, and while they tried hard throughout, their fate was sealed when centre Mick Harvey was sent off in the 55th minute.
For the Panthers, evergreen second rower Rick Nagas cashed in with a double, while quicksilver centre Delroy Tanner, hard working front rower Terry Franks and ultra-talented 18-year-old lock Tyson Whaleboat, who was signed from Brothers, also bagged one try each.
Teenage wing try machine Connor Jones was again a shining light for the Tigers with a familiar double.
Wests 28 (Rick Nagas 2, Delroy Tanner, Terry Franks, Tyson Whaleboat tries; Josh Tanner 5 goals) d Waves 14 (Connor Jones 2, Pat Robinson tries; Dan McLennan goal).
Brothers 46 (Tom Quill 2, Chris Rose, Corey Chapman, Kevin Sherriff, Joel McCrea, Nathan Webster, Vahiti Hopoi tries; John Akers 7 goals) d Wallaroos 0.
Isis 26 (Zac Dann, Peter Grant, Nathan Sullivan, Robert O'Donnell, Jake Thompson tries; Dann 3 goals) d Hervey Bay 18 (Chris Ford, Kyle Greaves, Anthony Lindeberg tries; Clinton Horne 3 goals).