The Waves Tigers clinched a 4BU/93.9HitzFM A Grade finals berth with a penultimate round 20-16 victory over Easts Magpies at Salter Oval on Sunday.
From the match, both sides suffered major blows ahead of their possible elimination final rematch on August 19 with two Tigers and one Magpie sent off and facing nervous waits before fronting the judiciary this week.
Other results went as expected with the Fraser Coast teams ruling at Eskdale Park on Saturday afternoon, with Hervey Bay Seagulls downing the Isis Devils 56-20, and Wallaroos white-washing Maryborough Brothers 56-0.
Past Brothers accounted for Wests in the other A Grade match at Salter Oval on Sunday, but were patchy in outgunning the never-say-die Panthers 44-24.
Easts were without their powerhouse player / coach Mat Templeman, who was suspended for two games after being placed on report in their clash with Hervey Bay a week earlier.
Waves led 8-6 at the break, but the Magpies had a golden chance to put their stamp on the match when the Tigers were reduced to 11 men with big gun Reuben Baillie sent off and another player was sin-binned.
However, despite being down on numbers, Waves dug deep and reclaimed the lead with a converted try in the 57th minute.
Easts’ reply was swift and sure with centre sensation Seremaia Kaulala scoring three minutes later, although they were unable to capitalise with a missed conversion, leaving them just two points in front.
In an ill-dsciplined match, Waves had another player sent off with just under nine minutes to go while Easts also had a player given his marching orders.
But the Tigers again defied the numbers game with halfback Daniel McLennan splitting the defence and presenting a beautiful inside pass for high class front rower Robert Nona to cross untouched for his second try.
McLennan added the extras for a four-point lead with five minutes remaining.
Easts had two great late chances to pull the game out of the fire, but they bombed both with cheap knock-ons on the second set of both, and while the Tigers secured fourth position, they did nothing to worry top three teams Hervey Bay, Past Brothers and Wallaroos.
If Baillie is found guilty of his charge, they will be without him not only for their last-round showdown with Hervey Bay in Childers this Saturday night, but also into a sudden-death finals campaign, with Seeds also facing a minimum of one week on the sidelines if found guilty.
The Magpies are again ruing missed opportunities as they remain just one point ahead of sixth-placed Wests and face a massive task against the red-hot Wallaroos in the last fixture game of the season at Salter Oval this Sunday.
At least by then they will know if it is must win because the Panthers play on Saturday night, and while Wests are up against Isis, who have won just two games all year, they will be playing for pride in front of their home fans at Childers and will be desperate to finish an extremely disappointing campaign on a high note.
The Devils could at least draw some heart from their performance in scoring 20 points against the Seagulls with front rower Jack Cole notching a double, even though the reigning premiers were in a class of their own with centre centres Letuia Eliu, winger Jayden Shepherd, five-eighth Ashley O’Donnell and second rower Heti Kafoa all also picking up two try hauls.
Hervey Bay will also have to beat Waves this week to wrap up a second straight minor premiership because if they are beaten, they could be pipped at the post for that title by Past Brothers, who will suit up against cellar dwellers Maryborough Brothers in the other clash at Salter Oval on Sunday.
Past Brothers were lacklustre for a long period against Wests, leading just 16-12 at halftime, and being on the brink of embarrassment when they had their 16-point lead dwindled down to four by conceding two soft tries in quick succession late in the second half.
The Brethren however regrouped and sealed victory with four tries in the last eight minutes, including with the mercurial utility back Quentin Olive, this game playing in the centres, completing a hattrick of tries.
The Wallaroos were far more impressing in shutting out their Maryborough counterparts, with water-tight defence and their attack gleaming polish with centres, former dual BRL A Grade Player of the Year, Shaun Collins and Brandon Collins, starring with four and two tries respectively and rock-solid second rower Kodi McConnell also picking up a double.
Past Brothers secured the Reserve Grade minor premiership with a 46-18 despatch of Wests, but the battle for second spot will go down to the wire between Maryborough Brothers and Wests with just two points separating the duo and fifth spot is also up for grabs, with Easts currently holding down that position but are only one in advance of Hervey Bay.
Past Brothers also moved one step to the Under 18 minor premiership, establishing a two-point buffer with doubles to Sam Robinson and Tyrell Howard ensuring a 30-4 win at the expense of Wests, while Wallaroos relinquished a share of the competition lead when they were blown away by Hervey Bay 44-14 with hooker Tiko Hooper wreaking havoc for the Seagulls with a hattrick.
In the Women’s division, Past Brothers have the top spot in their keeping, while Hervey Bay will finish second despite a surprise 20-8 stumble against Waves, but positions three, four and five will be determined this week with a mere one point currently separating the trio, with Heads taking on the might of Brothers, Isis at home to Hervey Bay, and Waves having the bye.
ROUND 15 A GRADE RESULTS
HERVEY BAY 56 (Letuia Eliu 2, Jayden Shepherd 2, Ashley O’Donnell 2, Heti Kafoa 2, Billy Stefaniuk, Robert O’Donnell tries; Clinton Horne 6, Heti Kafoa 2 goals) defeated ISIS 20 (Jack Cole 2, Charlie Higgins, Taylar Barritt tries; Taylar Barritt 2 goals)
WALLAROOS 54 (Shaun Collins 4, Brandon Law 2, Kodi McConnell 2, Mason Atkinson, William Jung, Joshua Crowley tries; Jack Horder 5 goals) defeated MARYBOROUGH BROTHERS 0
WAVES 20 (Robert Nona 2, Tien Nguyen, Reuben Baillie tries; Daniel McLennan 2 goals) defeated EASTS 16 (Seremaia Kaulala, Jamie Lowien, Marshall Murphy tries; Jamie Lowien 2 goals)
PAST BROTHERS 44 (Quentin Olive 3, Aaron Kuskey, Logan Tanzer, Willie Nagas, Aaron Hall, Rueben Olive, Tyrell Priestley tries; Tyrell Howard 2, Quentin Olive 2 goals) defeated WESTS 24 (Josh Johnson, Dennis Johnson, Tyson Douglas, James Prichard tries; James Prichard 4 goals)
LADDER AFTER ROUND 15: Hervey Bay 26, Pasts Brothers 25, Wallaroos 18, Across the Waves 18, Eastern Suburbs 13, Western Suburbs 12, Isis 5, Maryborough Brothers 3
For all the latest information on the 2017 4BU/93.9HitzFM BRL Competition, head to the Bundaberg Rugby League website.