FOUR teams sit together atop the table after Round 5 of the Bundaberg Broadcasters A Grade Premiership after Wests Panthers handed reigning champions Past Brothers' first loss of the season, triumphing 32-24 at Salter Oval on Saturday afternoon.
The Panthers joined Brothers on eight points along with Hervey Bay Seagulls and bye team Waves Tigers after the Seagulls had hung on for a 22-20 win against the winless, but valiant Easts Magpies 22-20 earlier in the afternoon.
Then at Childers Showgrounds on Sunday, Wallaroos (of Maryborough) posted their first victory of 2016, getting home 36-26 over hosts Isis Devils 36-26.
Brothers were without fullback Jake Carl, but they were poor and just as they did when the two sides previously met in the rounds on July 26 last year when they won 36-32, the Panthers roared and proved they are the real deal with their only loss this campaign having been a 26-24 defeat at the hands of the much-vaunted Tigers.
Wests struck early with front rower Ilaiasi Pongi powering over under the posts in the fourth minute, but while Brothers opened their account four minutes later, the Panthers purred with vastly experienced halves Josh Garden and Matt Tanner (who has returned home this season after seven good years with the Magpies) at their vintage best, along with the rest of their equally-lethal spine of hooker Josh Tanner and young gun fullback Trent Seeds.
Wests established a 28-4 half-time lead with back-to-back superb tries to Garden in the 18th and 22nd minutes, try sneak interchange battering ram front rower Corey Tanner in the 29th minute and electrifying winger Willie Nagas three minutes before the break with Josh Tanner's side-line conversion of this try really adding salt to Brothers' gaping wounds.
Brothers scored first in the second half after six minutes, but Wests soon re-established a 24-point buffer with a four-pointer to flashy centre Daniel Clancy. While they were unable to add further to their account in the last 28 minutes, Brothers salvaged a bit of pride with three late tries.
Wests had many stars, with Josh Tanner lauding young forward Hayden Priestley, while in a couple of highlights for Brothers, evergreen 39-year-old Robert McKeown, who came off the bench after having scored a double in Brothers' 76-16 Reserve Grade demolition of the Panthers and coached their Under 18s to a 54-6 blitz of Maryborough Brothers, scored a signature try and also landed a side-line conversion of young winger Sam Kuhnel's second try six minutes from the end.
In contrast, the result of the Seagulls v Easts game went right down to the wire before Hervey Bay clinched the two points.
Hervey Bay led 16-10 at oranges, but Easts continued to aim up in the second stanza and they had the chance to level the ledger when centre Nick Toovey finished off a superb team try with 10 minutes to go, but the conversion was waved away.
The Seagulls hit back with a trademark try to one of their quality recruits in five-eighth Caleb McLean and conversion to captain Clinton Horne five minutes later.
Refusing to surrender, Easts got back to within two points with a try to blockbusting front rower Reece Maughan and conversion to Josh Johnson with 1.42 left on the clock, but while they had a few last plays, they were beaten by the full-time siren.
Hervey Bay will have the bye this weekend before completing the first full round with a tantalising showdown with Wests at home at Stafford Park on April 23, which will be a curtain-raiser to an historic Intrust Super Cup showdown between premiers Ipswich and Sunshine Coast Falcons, while Easts will be hungry to break their drought against Wallaroos at Eskdale Park this Sunday.
Isis also played their hearts out in front of their loyal and boisterous home crowd with second rower Royce Blair leading the charge with a hat-trick of tries, but Roos simply had too many guns with former BRL premiership winning and dual BRL A Grade Player of the Year Shaun Collins bagging his first try of the season. Emerging hooker Jack Horder a match winner with two tries and six goals.
Fullback Dylan Arndt was the star for Brothers in Reserve grade with 26 points from three tries and seven goals.
Easts women's halfback Nea Robinson finished just short of that mark with three tries and six conversions in their 40-12 romp against first-season side Isis.
Hervey Bay 22 (Billy Stefaniuk, Terry Horne, Caleb McLean, Clinton Horne tries; Clinton Horne 3 goals) def Easts 20 (Nick Toovey, Jamison Kaye, Reece Maughan, Andrew Mason tries; Josh Johnson, Tyrone Ward goals)
Wests 32 (Josh Garden 2, Daniel Clancy, Willie Nagas, Ilaiasi Pongi, Corey Tanner tries; Josh Tanner 4 goals) def Brothers 24 (Sam Kuhnel 2, Frances Pearson, Taia Savage, Robert McKeown tries; Jayden Alberts, McKeown goals)
Wallaroos 36 (Jack Horder 2, Brandon Law, Paul Shillingsworth, Shaun Collins, Luke Waters tries; Horder 6 goals) def Isis 26 (Royce Blair 3, Warrick Fay, Peter Grant tries; Raymond Stahn 2, Taylar Barritt goals)