He might not have scored in his club debut, but Hervey Bay rolled out another excitement machine in Sudanese born wing flyer Chol Chol as they struck a vital blow in their quest for a second straight Bundaberg Broadcasters A Grade Minor Premiership with a 33-26 victory over Waves Tigers in their top of the table showdown at Salter Oval on Sunday.
Waves were without two of their best in Rueben Baillie, who was one of two Bundaberg players involved in Central Crows' Queensland Divisional Championships triumph earlier in the afternoon, and injured former NRL five-eighth Masada Iosefa. However, they also fielded another high-profile recruit in former Cairns Brothers winger Andreas Nona.
Waves led 16-14 at halftime and looked set to go on with the job after pouncing on a Seagulls mistake in their red zone with Tongan centre Sekope Tua scoring and Zak Bainbridge converting for an eight-point lead two minutes into the second stanza.
But Bainbridge was forced off injured soon after, and the Bay hit back, capitalising on three penalties in quick succession with interchange player Steven Dwyer crossing and captain and champion halfback Clinton Horne again converting in the 49th minute.
Another Tigers mistake and more ill-discipline paved the way for the Seagulls to take the lead with another converted try, this time through star fullback Alex Braun four minutes later.
Horne finished with one try, four goals and a field goal which gave them a crucial buffer over the closing stages.
But coach Tye Ingebrigtsen also lauded front rowers, young gun Will Jung, who played 75 minutes, and Simon Hawthorne in his return to top grade.
Eighteen-year-old Chol Chol, who fled his war torn homeland at the age six and moved to New Zealand with his mother, attended the famed Wesley College before receiving a scholarship to Ipswich State High School for 2015.
He impressed Ipswich Jets' Intrust Super Cup winning coach Shane Walker with his “freakish tries and breaks” and was signed by them for their title defence, and he opened eyes in a trial match against the Manly Sea Eagles in February.
His raw talent and infectious enthusiasm impressed all, but he has transferred to Hervey Bay and will be an ace as they attempt to go one better than last year and claim their maiden title.
With still nine rounds to go there is still plenty of hard work to do, but the Seagulls just keep going from strength to strength and there is no stopping them at the moment, although there is no place for complacency ahead of their clash with the potent Panthers, again at Salter Oval this Sunday.
Tua and fellow centre David Lisala both finished with doubles for Waves, and they fought to the end despite their injury toll, which also included gun centre Tien Nguyen, and coach Antonio Kaufusi was not disappointed despite slipping to four points behind Hervey Bay.
They are now two points in advance of Past Brothers and Wests Panthers, who each had wins on the weekend, with the former rebounding from a loss to the Seagulls; but struggling to beat win-less cellar dwellers Isis Devils 30-18 at Childers Showgrounds on Saturday night. The latter outclassed Easts Magpies 44-18 in the early A Grade game on Sunday’s program.
Waves travel to Eskdale Park Maryborough this Saturday night to do battle with Wallaroos, who will be fresh from the bye after a resounding victory over the Panthers.
Brothers were without their Central Crows' representative fullback Jake Carl and a few other injured players, but teenage fill-in five-eighth Jayden Alberts stepped up to the plate to be a match winner with two tries and three goals.
Despite the Devils' horror season so far, Brothers coach Mat Templeman knew they would rally at their traditional home fortress at "The Furnace" and he was just happy to leave with the two points.
Wests had overpowered Easts 40-20 in their first duel this year on April 2 and it was a similar story again, this time with quiet achieving centre Danny Moran wreaking havoc with four tries and winger Tyrell Priestley also coming to the party with a double.
Wests also put Easts to the sword in Reserve grade, winning 52-20 with fullback Quentin Olive the star with a hat-trick of tries and two conversions.
Past Brothers powered on at the top of the women's table with a 34-4 triumph over hosts Isis on Saturday night with three tries each to former dual Queensland open representative five-eighth Nicole Curtis and centre Jaedyn Stibbards and Curtis also kicking three goals.
Past Brothers 30 (Jayden Alberts 2, Kyle Swallow, Andrew Filo, Tyla Hodge, Corey Chapman tries; Alberts 3 goals) d Isis 18 (Taylar Barritt, Royce Blair, Peter Grant tries; Tyrone Ward 2, Barritt goals).
Wests 44 (Danny Moran 4, Tyrell Priestley 2, Matt Tanner, Josh Garden tries; James Prichard 6 goals) d Easts 18 (Caleb Gazzard 2, Joshua Johnson tries; Cody Stibbards 2, Gazzard goals)
Hervey Bay 33 (Alex Braun, Billy Stefaniuk, Terry Horne, Clinton Horne, Caleb McLean, Steven Dwyer tries; Clinton Horne 4 goals and field goal) d Waves Tigers 26 (David Lisala 2, Sekope Tua 2, Robert Nona tries; Zak Bainbridge 6 goals)