Hosts Isis Devils gave it their best shot but their Bundaberg Broadcasters A Grade Premiership finals’ hopes are on life support after they were outclassed by Past Brothers 50-22 in their round 12 clash at Childers Showgrounds on Saturday night.
But by their win, the Brethren maintained a share of the lead on the ladder with reigning champions Hervey Bay Seagulls, who outgunned another form side, third placed Wallaroos 28-12 in the earlier game, with the Roos now five points adrift of the co-pilots with four rounds remaining.
At Salter Oval on Sunday, the hot-at-home but cold-when-away Wests Panthers kept their hopes alive with a 42-24 despatching of cellar-dwellers Maryborough Brothers, while the patchy Waves Tigers welcomed back big gun Rueben Baillie from the Sunshine Coast Falcons in the Intrust Super Cup, and he made a huge difference as they scored a crucial 28-16 victory over Easts Magpies.
Much was expected of the Devils this year but they have failed to deliver, and they were playing for survival at the place they had christened “The Furnace”, where they have really turned up the heat on every visiting team over the years.
But despite a double from prodigious centres talent Jayden Alberts, a Brothers junior who was one of a string of star recruits this season, the Bundaberg side welcomed their champion hooker and coach Brent Kuskey back from suspension and he was at his domineering best in setting up a 22-12 halftime lead and leading his troops to a half-century of points.
Five-eighth Quentin Olive also continued his superb form with two tries and four goals in another five-star all-round performance, while inspirational captain and frontrow dynamo Kevin Sherriff also notched a double.
Past Brothers will now meet the Seagulls in the inaugural Toyota Cup match between the leading two teams at mid-season at Salter Oval this Sunday.
They currently trail the Seagulls on net points differential by just 10 points, and the battle for the minor premiership looks set to go right down to the wire, with their remaining matches against Wallaroos, Maryborough Brothers, Wests and Maryborough Brothers, while Hervey Bay will meet Wests, Easts, Isis and Waves in the run home.
On the other hand, Isis, who are six points behind fifth placed Easts and five points off Wests, would not only have to win their remaining fixtures against Easts, Wests, Hervey Bay and Wests, but also rely on Easts and Wests to lose all of their games, if they are to come back from the dead and snatch fifth position and a highly improbable finals berth.
The Devils meet the Magpies when fixtures resume on Sunday week, and it will be do or die for them.
Last weekend, Wallaroos also threw down the gauntlet to their Fraser Coast cousins, but the Bay rose to the challenge, forging a 16-6 lead by oranges and never relenting.
Try machine Billy Stefaniuk moved from his usual wing position to fullback to fill the big shoes of the unavailable Logona Vetemotu, and it was business as usual for him, bagging a double in their commanding five tries to two performance.
Meanwhile, coming off a 68-point mauling by a rampant Roos in Maryborough, Wests, as always, were much stronger at home, and they had too many guns for a very competitive Maryborough Brothers in a pulsating end-to-end duel, leading 24-10 at the break and always maintaining control, with winger Ken Johnson, hooker Tyson Douglas and second-rower James Prichard all having two-try hauls.
Still one point behind the Magpies, the ball is in Panthers’ court, but their draw is tough with match-ups against the Seagulls, Devils, Brethren and again the Devils in the rounds finale in Childers.
Baillie’s return was a timely boost for the Tigers, but while he celebrated with a double, and powerhouse centre Trent Seeds continued his recent try-fest with two more, they had to fight tooth and nail to be ahead 12-10 after 40 minutes, ultimately to triumph by a margin of two converted tries.
The win moved them back into fourth spot, leap-frogging their vanquished opponent and putting them within reach of the No. 3 ticket and a double chance in the finals.
Their destiny is also now in their own hands as after locking horns with Maryborough Brothers in round 13, they play the three teams above them to complete their fixtures, taking on Wallaroos at Eskdale Park, a game that could decide third place, then Past Brothers and Hervey Bay.
It was a perfect weekend for Past Brothers with their table-topping reserve grade side maintaining full steam ahead with a 38-10 demolition of Isis with under 18 Josiah Purcell backing up from his own division to feature with a double and teammate Daile Coffison also doubling up from his pair of tries in his age group with a four-pointer, and their under 18s putting the Panthers to the sword 70-12 with fullback Layton Chambers amassing 20 points with two tries and six goals, and centre Cadell Blackman, five-eighth Jack Larter and their other secondrower Chris Gibbs also posting two tries each.
Finally, the Brothers women white-washed Waves 30-0 with their former Queensland open women’s representative fullback Kady Tinker making play with a hat-trick.
The Past Brothers Reserves, under 18 and women’s units will also contest their Toyota Cup finals this Sunday against Wests, Wallaroos and Waves.
The Wests Reserves had to settle for a 28-28 draw with Maryborough Brothers last Sunday despite a 16-point splurge by five-eighth Ashley Pollitt with two tries and four conversions, and a double to centre Scott Wilkinson.
Wallaroos edged out Hervey Bay 46-36 in one of the best reserve grade games for a long time last Saturday, with centre Peter Colls wreaking havoc with four tries and club stalwart five-eighth Shane Jeffrey joining in the party with 18 points from two tries and five goals.
Hervey Bay 28 (Billy Stefaniuk 2, Letuia Eliu, Ethan West, Steven Dwyer tries; Clinton Horne 4 goals) def Wallaroos 12 (Shaun Collins, Luke Waters tries; Jack Horder, Joel Richardson goals).
Past Brothers 50 (Quentin Olive 2, Kevin Sherriff 2, Willie Nagas, Tyrell Howard, Hayden Priestley, Aaron Hall, Brendan Stewart tries; Quentin Olive 4, Howard 3 goals) def Isis 22 (Jayden Alberts 2, Liam Gooden, Tuifua Tupou tries; Taylar Barritt 3 goals).
Wests 42 (Ken Johnson 2, Tyson Douglas 2, James Prichard 2, Trent Broadhurst, Rick Nagas tries; Bevan Page 4, Prichard goals) def Maryborough Brothers 24 (Carlin Rendall, Jarrabah Davidson, Kerrod McKenna, Dalton Harry, Sam Barwick tries; Harry 2 goals).
Waves Tigers 28 (Trent Seeds 2, Rueben Baillie 2, Jackson Paulson tries; Arden Lankowski 4 goals) def Easts 16 (Cody Stibbards, Mat Templeman, Justyn Porter tries; Dylan Taylor 2 goals).