Wing sensation Billy Stefaniuk grabbed another double as Hervey Bay Seagulls retained the lead in the Bundaberg Broadcasters A Grade Premiership with a comfortable 28-6 victory over Easts Magpies in their Round 9 clash at Salter Oval on Sunday.
Reigning champions Past Brothers, who had held top spot until a week earlier, continued to slide down the ladder, winding up in fourth position after suffering their second loss at the hands of Wests Panthers this season, going down 30-28. The Panthers joined Waves Tigers in equal-second.
By virtue of their loss, Easts also dropped down the rankings to joint-fifth on points, but sixth on differential, overtaken by Wallaroos, who finally put it all together to notch their second win of 2016, repeating their Round 5 victory at the expense of the struggling and win-less Isis Devils at home at Eskdale Park, Maryborough on Saturday, triumphing 52-12.
The Magpies, who were coming off an ambush of Brothers and were chasing a hat-trick of wins, served it up to the Baysiders and trailed just 12-6 at the break, but the Seagulls weathered the storm and in the end, simply had too many guns.
Stefaniuk put the icing on the cake with a trademark 80m try down the left flank in the 79th minute but hooker Damien Otto was the orchestrator until succumbing to a shoulder injury 10 minutes into the second stanza, while powerhouse front rower William Elemani and Joel McCrea, who slotted into the five-eighth role, were also very good.
Hervey Bay will host Isis at Stafford Park this Saturday, before facing successive matches which could having major bearings on the minor premiership, against Past Brothers at Brothers Sports Club, Waves and Wests respectively.
Easts will get the chance to regroup when they have the bye this weekend before taking on the rampant Tigers.
Brothers were again without a few big guns, but while they were brave, they were again cruelled by fundamental mistakes as the Panthers pounced.
Wests jumped out of the blocks to an early 12-0 lead, but they hit back with 20 straight points in even time, before allowing the ball to go over the dead-ball line from the kick-off from their fourth try. The Panthers made them pay with captain Josh Tanner scoring and converting to get them back to within two points on the stroke of half-time.
Brothers also knocked on from the kick-off to the second half, but survived that danger before wily veteran Wests halfback Josh Garden split the defence and crossed under the posts in the 46th minute, for Tanner to land a simple conversion.
The Brethren drew level with former Isis and Easts centre Andrew Ratcliffe, notching his second try on debut for his new club seven minutes later but a relatively easy conversion was missed, which was ultimately the difference.
The Westerners edged ahead again by six points with young front row workhorse Hayden Priestley claiming his second try seven minutes on and Tanner adding the extras.
Brothers got back to within two points with 12 minutes remaining with a try to super-sub Quade McGrory, but from there, the Panthers jealously guarded their lead, aided by a string of penalties.
Tanner again led from the front for the winners, who had gone done fighting to the Seagulls 30-22 in Hervey Bay at their previous outing three weeks earlier, and they will be keen to reverse their 26-24 defeat in their rematch this Sunday where teams will play for the inaugural Not Now Not Ever Cup.
Brothers lost star five-eighth Nathan Sullivan to injury in the first two minutes, as well as losing a few more players during the game. Their best included tackling dynamo Tyla Hodge and raw, but bustling second rower Andrew Nadar, who was backing up after chalking up two tries in their Under 18 win over Easts.
They will lick their wounds before facing another danger game against the resurgent Wallaroos in the early A Grade fixture on Sunday's program.
Prodigal son and former dual BRL A Grade Player of the Year Shaun Collins was back to his brilliant best for Roos last Saturday, wreaking havoc with four tries, while fellow centre Paul Shillingsworth picked up two. But coach Peter Waters lauded second rower Ben Turner as their best.
Both Wallaroos and Easts are now five points in advance of Isis who look like they will continue to have a difficult season, but coach Paul Barritt remains pleased with their efforts in what he has always said would be a learning season.
At the other end of the scale, just about everything Hervey Bay touches is turning to gold, with their Reserve grade side putting Easts to the sword 76-14 with fullback Liam Chapman continuing his stunning form since being relegated from A Grade, running amok with seven tries after posting a hat-trick seven days earlier.
Their Under 18s also accounted for Waves 42-10 with fullback Wil Walthal having a big day out with three four-pointers, but the stand-out in that grade was Brothers' powerhouse five-eighth Wyatt Reynolds, who warmed up for the Queensland Schools Open Championships with a four-try five-star performance.
Brothers' Women also continued on their winning ways, accounting for Isis 16-8.
Wallaroos 52 (Shaun Collins 4, Paul Shillingsworth 2, Jack Horder, Chris Ahon, Ethan West tries; Horder 6 goals) d Isis 12 (Peter Grant, Jack Cole tries; Taylar Barritt 2 goals).
Hervey Bay 28 (Billy Stefaniuk 2, William Elemani, Isaak Pedersen, Simon Hawthorne tries; Clinton Horne 4 goals) d Easts 6 (Justin Porter try, Tyrone Ward goal).
Wests 30 (Hayden Priestley 2, Josh Garden, Josh Tanner, Ilaiasi Pongai tries; Josh Tanner 5 goals) d Past Brothers 28 (Aaron Ratcliffe 2, Peter McDougall, Jayden Alberts, Quade McGrory, Brendon McKeown tries; McKeown, Andrew Filo goals).