BUNDABERG Broadcasters A Grade Premiership co-leaders Hervey Bay Seagulls and Past Brothers are on a collision for for a tantalising showdown for outright No. 1 position after their juggernauts powered on with big round nine victories at Salter Oval on Sunday.
Captain/coach and five-eighth Tye Ingebrigtsen was at his absolute brilliant best, bagging a hat-trick of tries in a five-star all-round performance as the Seagulls overhauled the struggling Easts Magpies 42-12.
On a day tinged with sadness after the tragic death of former Easts, Brothers and Wests star Jesse Tass two days earlier, Brothers then continued their winning streak but had to dig deep to stave off an inspired two-times defending champions Wests Panthers 24-10.
The round had started at Childers Showgrounds on Saturday night with hosts Isis Devils' biggest gun, powerhouse lock Jake Thompson again showing the form which gained him Central CRows selection at the 47th Battalion Carnival a week earlier, also chalking up a hat-trick of tries as last year's beaten grand finalists and the Devils trumped Maryborough's Wallaroos 28-14.
Hervey Bay took control in the first half, opening up a 22-0 lead and they never relented with Ingebrigtsen and halfback and dual BRL Player of the Year Clinton Horne weaving their magic, with brute strength and sublime skills respectively in what has become a lethal partnership, although the latter left the field with a serious injury 10 minutes into the second stanza.
Front rower Clancy Fallon came off the bench to also feature with a double in his return from a stint on the Gold Coast as the Seagulls notched their seventh win of the season.
Beaten grand finalists three years ago, many believe that this could be the year the Seagulls break through for their maiden Bundaberg A Grade premiership but their credentials will be put to the test over the next two weekends as they host the Devils at Stafford Park this Sunday afternoon before venturing to Brothers Sports Club next Saturday afternoon for possibly the ultimate challenge.
Despite a patchy performance, Ingebrigtsen was happy to take the competition points although he admitted the loss of Horne left a gaping hole in a team which was already missing 12 regular first-graders.
Seagulls junior Liam Chapman also impressed off the bench in his first-grade debut, but it was Ingebrigtsen who continues to inspire after getting extra motivation with his omission from the Crows' team.
Ingebrigtsen is hoping to get another of his stars, David Leapai back from injury this week.
For the Magpies, they remain stuck on four points with just one win and six points behind joint-fourth placed Wests and Wallaroos and needing another dramatic turn-around similar to last season when they were humiliated by Brothers by 90 points exactly one year ago before experiencing an amazing transformation and going within one win of a fairytale grand final appearance.
Meanwhile, Brothers, whose only loss so far was to Hervey Bay back in round one, notched their seventh straight win, with captain/coach and five-times Queensland Rangers star centre Mat Templeman again leading from the front, although one of the most pleasing things for him was the A Grade debut of another young under-18 talent Hayden Golchert on the wing, and he celebrated with a try.
Isis also had to dig deep to down the smarting Roos, but the class and might and power of Thompson proved the difference in a team which is starting to gel.
Hervey Bay 42 (Tye Ingebrigtsen 3, Clancy Fallon 2, Chris Wicks, Brock Eldridge, William Elelami tries; Clinton Horne 3, Wicks, Anthony Lindeberg goals) def Easts 12 (Reece Maughan, Jarrod Johnson tries; Baidon Cooper 2 goals)
Brothers 24 (Hayden Golchert, Mat Templeman, Chris Rose, Daniel Finter tries; Jake Carl 4 goals) def Wests 10 (Hayden Tanna, Tyrell Priestley tries; Josh Tanner goal)
Isis 28 (Jake Thompson 3, Jacob Klaasen, Taylar Barritt tries; Rob O'Donnell 4 goals) def Wallaroos 14 (Josh Crowley, Ashley Rainbow, Jason Booth tries; Lincoln Willmot goal)