The gap between the top three sides and the bottom four in the Bundaberg Broadcasters A Grade Premiership continued to widen with the results of round 15 matches on Saturday.
At Salter Oval, second seeds Hervey Bay Seagulls proved far too strong for Isis Devils, winning 40-6, before two-time defending champions Wests Panthers overpowered cellar dwellers Waves Tigers 38-14.
Meanwhile, at Eskdale Park, Maryborough, top of the table Past Brothers overcame the loss of a string of their stars to outgun hosts Wallaroos 34-22.
The Devils were again without Queensland Rangers explosive lock Jake Thompson, as well as young guns Taylar Barritt and Alusa Nasio, who were each chosen in the Tournament Meir Team after starring as Bundaberg finished runner-up to Rockhampton in the Central Division Under-20 Carnival at Yeppoon on the weekend, and several injured players.
But they were again very disappointing as the Seagulls toughed out a 10-0 half-time lead before really turning up the heat in the second stanza despite having crafty halfback Clinton Horne sin binned in the 36th minute.
Prolific scoring Hervey Bay captain/coach and centre Tye Ingebrigtsen and quicksilver winger Billy Stefaniuk again led the charge with two tries apiece.
The Bay remain two points behind Past Brothers and six in advance of Wests, whom they play at Salter Oval this Sunday, while Isis stay in fourth position, now four adrift of the Panthers and two clear of Wallaroos, who have a mortgage on fifth placing and the last finals berth, eight points in front of Easts, with Waves two behind them.
Even though Thompson has Rangers commitments this weekend, Isis should pick up the two points at home at Childers Showgrounds against lightweights Easts.
Waves were also competitive against Wests in the first 40minutes last Saturday despite trailing 26-14 at oranges, but they were unable to add to their account as the Panthers picked up two more converted tries.
Fittingly at the end of NAIDOC Week, Wests, who have a big Indigenous representation, reigned supreme with flashy fullback Willie Nagas and Australian junior softball representative winger Tyrell Priestley each also chalking up doubles.
In fact all of their points were scored by Indigenous players, with exciting five-eighth Bevan Page amassing 14 with one try and five conversions, and two more outstanding young talents, centre Delroy Tanner and lock Tyson Whaleboat grabbing one four-pointer each.
A much depleted Past Brothers were forced to dig deep against Roos with scores locked together at 16-all at the break before the title favourites staked their claim with two converted tries within eight minutes of the restart.
In a game punctuated by penalties both ways but stacked in favour of the home side, the Brethren drew first blood in the fourth minute through class centre Tien Nguyen, but the teams traded tries for the remainder of the half with Roos inspirational captain and second rower Mark Berkery keeping his side in the contest with two tries on his way to a hat-trick for the match.
But it was Brothers powerhouse utility and player/coach Mat Templeman, playing this time in the second row, who gave them the impetus when he charged over for a try in the 46th minute, before fill-in under-18 winger Hayden Golchert followed suit two minutes later on the end of a slick back-line movement involving firstly five-eighth Aaron Kuskey, then Nguyen.
Halfback Joel Fagan was sin-binned in the 59th minute, opening the door for Wallaroos to again hit back, but after missing a penalty shot one minute later, Brothers clinched the virtual match winner with Nguyen grabbing his second try with 16 minutes left on the clock and fullback Jake Carl landing a side-line conversion to go with his try and four other successful kicks before representing Queensland at the Australian Police Championships this week.
Roos got back to within 12 points with 12 minutes to go with Berkery's third try, but a walking wounded Brothers held on to stretch their winning streak to 13 before having the bye this weekend.
While he was not among the points, Brothers captain and hooker Brent Kuskey was again superb, including topping the tackle-count with 41, among them several try savers, while make-shift front rowers Matt Ohlbrecht and Nathan Webster relished rare starts and really laid the platform.
Brothers also had one player selected in the Central Under-20 Merit team, Jaidon Alberts, with 17-year-old Jacob O'Shea, of Waves, completing Bundaberg's honours list after having also been named at lock in the Merit team and Second Division Player of the Carnival after the Queensland Independent Secondary School Confraternity Carnival in Ipswich a week earlier, where he captained Shalom College to the Plate final.
Hervey Bay 40 (Tye Ingebrigtsen 2, Billy Stefaniuk 2, Alex Braun, Curtis Cobbo-Riley, Tyson Woodman, Amos Pelite tries; Clinton Horne 4 goals) d Isis 6 (Tim Cole try, Robert O'Donnell goal).
Wests 38 (Willie Nagas 2, Tyrell Priestley 2, Delroy Tanner, Bevan Page, Tyson Whaleboat tries; Page 5 goals) d Waves 14 (Patrick Robinson, Benny Latu, Danny Moran tries; Muthuna Jones goal).
Brothers 34 (Tien Nguyen 2, Jake Carl, Chris Rose, Hayden Golchert, Mat Templeman tries; Carl 5 goals) d Wallaroos 22 (Mark Berkery 3, Stafford Saltner tries; KeIth Gadd 3 goals.