HERVEY Bay Seagulls clinched a second straight Bundaberg Broadcasters A Grade Premiership minor title with a 44-0 white-wash of Easts Magpies in front of their adoring home crowd at Stafford Park last Saturday night.
Following Past Brothers' 18-10 defeat at the hands of Wests Panthers at Salter Oval on a very wet Sunday afternoon, the Seagulls emerged eight points clear at the top of the table with their 14th victory in a row since their two-point loss to Brothers at home in the season opener back on March 5.
Past Brothers were joined in equal second place by the Panthers, who recorded their third win against the reigning champion in as many clashes this campaign.
But the Hervey Bay juggernaut rolled on, and while they face the toughest possible run into the finals against the Panthers, Brethren and Waves Tigers before having the last round bye, they cannot now be beaten for No. 1 position.
Sudanese born teenage flyer Chol Chol was the only multiple scorer for the Seagulls with a double as they also maintained both the best attacking and defensive records in the competition, with now 557 points for and a mere 213 against.
Brothers drew first blood early on against Wests with a superb try to much improved five-eighth Andrew Filo, but without star hooker Brent Kuskey and regular pivot Nathan Sullivan; and with fullback Jake Carl having a rare off-day in the wet conditions, too often they were unable to capitalise on opportunities.
Wests defended tenaciously throughout and some flashes of brilliance from Matt and Josh Tanner were enough to secure them the points again after they had shocked Brothers 32-24 on April 9 and repeated the dose 30-28 on May 15.
Wests led 12-6 at oranges, but while Brothers were gifted the first try of the second half to get to within four points, the sin-binning of halfback Joel Fagan in the 58th minute was the game breaker, with Matt Tanner scoring what was to be the winning try seconds before his return.
Brothers and Wests are just two points in advance of fourth placed Waves, who picked up the bye points, and the battle for the two qualifying final berths looks set to go right down to the wire with Brothers, Wests and Waves jostling for the two positions.
Brothers, who have a nett points differential of 197, have the bye this weekend, while Wests (106) face a daunting task against the might of the Bay at Salter Oval this Sunday, before Waves (153) take on Wallaroos, who accounted for win-less whipping boys Isis Devils 42-10 in the early match on last Sunday's program.
Roos opened up a four-point buffer over sixth seed Easts with the class of centre Shaun Collins shining in his hat-trick of tries and Roger Rainbow also continuing his purple patch of form with a double.
The Magpies, who now have a negative differential of 192, compared to Roos' -26, but if they can topple Isis at Childers Showgrounds this Saturday night and Roos are jumped by Waves, they could resurrect their hopes of claiming fifth place and the last position in the finals.
Hervey Bay 44 (Billy Stefaniuk,Tye Ingebrigtsen, Terry Horne, Caleb McLean, Damien Otto, Will Jung, Chol Chol 2 tries; Clinton Horne 6 goals) d Eastern Suburbs 0
Wallaroos 42 (Paul Shillingworth, Luke Waters, Jack Horder, Roger Rainbow 2, Shaun Collins 3 tries; Horder 5 goals) d Isis 10 (Royce Blair, Rhys Neil tries; Tyrone Ward goal)
Western Suburbs 18 (Matt Tanner, Robert Telfer, Josh Tanner tries; James Prichard 3 goals) d Past Brothers 10 (Sam Kuhnel, Andrew Filo tries; Jake Carl goal)