After a difficult start to their season and a sobering loss to Wests one week earlier, Easts Magpies re-emerged as the giant-killers and a genuine force in the 4BU/Hitz93.9 A Grade Premiership with a stunning 34-16 victory over Past Brothers at Salter Oval on Saturday.
The win lifted the Magpies into fourth on a congested middle of the ladder, while the Brethren dropped from joint-leaders to second, with reigning champions Hervey Bay Seagulls reclaiming pole position with a 38-18 despatch of the win-less Maryborough Brothers at Childers Showgrounds on Saturday afternoon.
The other Maryborough team, Wallaroos, then shored up third place with a 36-10 demolition of hosts Isis Devils, who were less than lukewarm at their former fortress which had been dubbed “The Furnace” during their glory days.
The Devils’ hopes of qualifying for the finals look to be slipping away as they remain in seventh position on five points, behind Seagulls (16), Past Brothers (14), Wallaroos (11), Easts (9) and Waves Tigers and Wests Panthers on eight points each, after the Tigers regained their teeth by outgunning the Panthers 36-22 in the battle of the big cats in the match of the round on Sunday.
In a round of remarkably similar score lines, Easts were the most significant winners, reversing their heavy loss to their cross-town rivals in round two with an inspired player/coach Mat Templeman, who was still serving a suspension from last year when that game was played, tormenting the side he had championed for the past eight seasons, including coaching them for the past two years.
His side included three other former Past Brothers stars in Francis Pearson, Corey Chapman and Marshall Murphy.
The writing was on the wall for the Brethren when their best player and first-season coach and playmaker, hooker Brent Kuskey was sent off in the 26th minute, charged following a dangerous lifting tackle.
The Magpies capitalised, going on to lead 16-6 at halftime and continued on with the job with their hooker and former Bundaberg A Grade Player of the Year Caleb Gazzard leading the charge with a double.
Their recent Fijian recruit, Seremaia Kaulala was also among the tries, as was inspirational captain and blockbusting front rower Reece Maughan.
Easts have the distinction of being the only team to beat Hervey Bay since the first-round last year, ending their 25-match winning streak a fortnight earlier, and now with Brothers’ scalp also under their belts, they have stamped themselves as legitimate contenders.
They will get a chance to join Roos on points when the two sides clash in the first A Grade game in Hervey Bay tomorrow.
The Tigers also needed to get back on track after back-to-back defeats and also losing to the Panthers in their only previous meeting this year, and it was their former Wests junior product and young gun, Trent Seeds, whom coach Antonio Kaufusi has transformed from a prolific scoring outside back to an equally potent front rower, who was the difference between the two sides with a hat-trick of tries.
Five-eighth Daniel McLennan was also on the scoreboard, scoring his first try in just his third game back from a delayed start to his season after suffering a badly broken ankle in last year’s finals, as was their Seagulls recruit Chris Ford who also picked up a four-pointer.
They put their stamp on the game by establishing a 24-6 halftime lead and were always in control despite being outscored 16-12 in the second stanza.
They face a tall order against the Seagulls at Stafford Park tomorrow.
Last Saturday, the much-improved Maryborough Brothers were again very competitive, but the Seagulls simply had too many guns for them,
The Seagulls wingers; the electrifying Billy Stefaniuk and Jayden Shepherd each chalked up doubles and explosive fullback Logona Vetemotu racked up 14 points with one try and five goals.
Halfback Dalton Harry was outstanding in a beaten side, including with two tries and three goals.
Meanwhile, Isis had everything to play for and expectations were high for them at home, but the Roos hopped all over them.
Teenage white-hot fullback Joey Alberts bagged a hattrick of tries and former dual BRL A Grade Player of the Year and centre Shaun Collins was also at his vintage best, crossing for a double.
The Seagulls’ Under 18s also ran amok, torching Wests 46-10 with halfback Travin Baumann featuring with three tries, but Past Brothers retained top spot on the ladder with a 30-22 despatch of Wallaroos.
Past Brothers also maintained their perfect records in Reserve Grade and the Women’s division, beating Waves 42-6 and Burnett Heads 22-0 respectively, with five-eighth Andrew Filo and rugged forward Logan Tanzer each notching doubles in Reserve Grade and former Queensland Women’s fullback Kady Tinker and second rower Chelsea Morrison each achieving the same feat.
ROUND 9 A GRADE RESULTS
EASTS 34 (Caleb Gazzard 2, Seremaia Kaulala, Cody Stibbards, Reece Maughan, Justyn Porter tries; Tyrone Ward 5 goals) defeated PAST BROTHERS 16 (Rueben Olive 2, Kevin Sherriff tries; Tyrell Howard 2 goals)
WAVES 36 (Trent Seeds 3, Ben Garratt, Daniel McLennan, Chris Ford tries; Arden Lankowski 6 goals) defeated WESTS 22 (Joshua Johnson, Josh Tanner, Tyson Whaleboat, Matthew Lawton tries; James Prichard 3 goals)
HERVEY BAY 38 (Billy Stefaniuk 2, Jayden Shepherd 2, Logona Vetemotu, Robert O’Donnell, Dion Bunyan tries; Vetemotu 5 goals) defeated MARYBOROUGH BROTHERS 18 (Dalton Harry 2, Anaru Nathan tries; Harry 3 goals)
WALLAROOS 36 (Josiah Alberts 3, Shaun Collins 2, Corey Hellmuth, Ben Turner tries; Jack Horder 3, Mason Atkinson goals) defeated ISIS 10 (Tim Cole, Royce Blair tries; Starr Masae goal)
LADDER AFTER ROUND 9: Hervey Bay 16, Pasts Brothers 14, Wallaroos 11, Eastern Suburbs 9, Across the Waves 8, Western Suburbs 8, Isis 5, Maryborough Brothers 1
For all the latest information on the 2017 4BU/93.9HitzFM BRL Competition, head to the Bundaberg Rugby League website.