It was a red-letter rugby league day for Hervey Bay on Saturday, with the city hosting its first Intrust Super Cup game. The Ipswich Jets turned it on and got their title defence back on track with a 20-6 victory over Sunshine Coast Falcons at a jam-packed Stafford Park.
The big crowd came in early and were in great voice after their beloved Seagulls had flexed their muscle against fellow heavyweights Wests Panthers in the Bundaberg Rugby League with their Reserve Grade triumphing 56-10. Their flagship team also got home 30-22 and showed they are strong contenders for a maiden Bundaberg Broadcasters A Grade Premiership after being beaten grand finalists last year.
That was after their Under 18s set the standard for the afternoon by outgunning Wallaroos 32-4.
The Seagulls and Panthers went into the seventh round showdown as joint-leaders with reigning champions Past Brothers and both unveiled new excitement machine centres in former Toowoomba premiership winner Ashley Boney and Yarrabah flyer Landon Kynuna respectively, and both complemented lethal back-lines and showed their wares with twin doubles.
But it was Hervey Bay who ran in six tries to five and continued to rise to every challenge thrown at them since a 13-12 first-round home loss to Brothers.
Coach Tye Ingebrigtsen was proud of his troops after grinding out a tough win and despite his explosive back-line, he lauded the impact of William Elemani and Will Jung off the bench, including with the former scoring a crucial try.
The Seagulls will host Wallaroos in a Fraser Coast local derby to complete the first full round on Saturday week (May 7) after fixtures have a week's break for the 47th Battalion Carnival in Roma this weekend.
The scary thing for opposition sides is that Ingebrigtsen is due to return from injury before the end of the season and further bolster their all-round fire-power.
The Panthers have the next round bye and will not play again until May 15 when they suit up again against Brothers after having inflicted their only defeat so far in 2016 when they last crossed swords on April 9.
Winger Corey Alexander was the star for the Reserve Grade Seagulls with a hat-trick of tries, while centre William Wathal also bagged three tries for their Under 18s and kicked a goal.
Meanwhile, at Salter Oval on Sunday, Waves Tigers snapped a two-match losing streak with a 42-18 dispatch of a disappointing Wallaroos and Easts Magpies finally broke their duck against the struggling Isis Devils, romping home 46-12.
With seven changes to the team that had been thrashed by Brothers 42-18 seven days earlier, including club debutant five-eighth Masada Iosefa (a 28-year-old Samoan Test player with 57 NRL games to his credit, 43 with Penrith Panthers from 2008-11 and 14 with Wests Tigers from 2012-13), the Tigers put their stamp on the game by opening up an 18-6 half-time lead.
Among their scorers was fullback Chris Rose, who also transferred from Brothers earlier in the week, disgruntled that he had been stuck on the wing at the premiers and unable to play in his desired positions of fullback or centres.
Waves made a perfect start to the second stanza with former Sunshine Coast Falcons centre Rueben Baillie scoring, but while Roos hit back immediately with halfback Luke Waters posting his second four-pointer on the back of a 70m break by star centre Paul Shillingsworth; the Tigers regrouped quickly and re-established a 16-point buffer with Iosefa spinning out of tackles and using his bulk to barge over and halfback Daniel McLennan raising the flags in the 50th minute.
When Baillie scooped up a Roos chip on his line and raced the length of the field for his second try three minutes later, the floodgates looked set to open, but the Maryborough side refused to surrender and reduced the margin to 14 points with 23 minutes left on the clock after three penalties in quick succession.
However, while their attack was disjointed, Waves aimed up in defence to repel a few more Roos attacking raids, before putting the icing on the cake by feasting on Wallaroos mistakes in their red zone with two last tries in the 72nd and 75th minutes to the ultra-consistent McLennan and gun centre Tien Nguyen respectively.
Another high-profile recruit in front rower Robert Nona was also among the tries, along with quiet achieving second rower Chris Georgiu, who was just one of four players in the side who stuck by the club through the bad times when they were battered from pillar to post for the past five years.
Meanwhile, the Magpies' club song rang out loud and strong for the first time in 2016 after they had started the new year poorly before going close at their previous two outings when they lost by a mere two points to the Seagulls before drawing with Wallaroos.
Easts were clinical against the hapless Devils, who could scrape together just 16 players for the match, and they had nine individual try scorers.
They could now go on to better things under returning master coach Alan Herbert, although they will face a massive test at their next outing when they take on Brothers.
It was a good day out for Easts after their Under 18s had edged out the Tigers 30-26 with lock Teykoa Nagas a match winner with a three-try haul.
Past Brothers had the A Grade bye, but while their Reserve graders were thrashed by their Maryborough counter-parts, their Under 18s had a good win at the expense of Wallaroos and their women continued on their winning ways against Easts 28-22.
Former multiple Queensland open representative five-eighth Nicole Curtis, goes from strength to strength in her comeback season after missing all of last year due to injury, and crossed for three tries in a signature robust all-round display.
Hervey Bay 30 (Ashley Boney 2, Billy Stefaniuk, Chris Wicks, Joel McCrea, William Elemani tries; Clinton Horne 2, Wicks goals) def Wests 22 (Landon Kynuna 2, Danny Moran, Josh Tanner, Tyson Whaleboat tries; Josh Tanner goal)
Waves 42 (Rueben Baillie 2, Chris Rose, Tien Nguyen, Masada Iosefa, Daniel McLennan, Robert Nona, Chris Georgiu tries; McLennan 5 goals) def Wallaroos 18 (Luke Waters 2, Kane Rowles tries; Jack Horder 3 goals)
Easts 46 (Alex Duffy, Cody Stibbards, Nick Tanner, Kale Stibbards, Josh Johnson, Reece Maughan, Jesse Keven, Raymond Zysk, Caleb Gazzard tries; Tyrone Ward 4, Keven goals) def Isis 12 (Jack Rowan, Raymond Stahn tries; Warrick Fay, Stahn goals).
Photo: Matthew McInerney Fraser Coast Chronicle