Valleys Diehards and West Brisbane ran onto Emerson Park on Saturday afternoon in front of a sea of more 1000 supporters swathed in Blue and Red colours who were eager to see who would face the Dolphins in the In Safe Hands Cup grand final this Saturday.
The Panthers went into the preliminary final as underdogs having not defeated the Diehards in 2017.
Valleys, who finished the season in third place had a strong win against the Seagulls in the qualifying final, but were eventually defeated by the minor premiers Redcliffe the following week.
It took five minutes for the first points to be scored and they came in the way of Valleys big man Dylan Smith who crossed the line untouched from three metres out after a short pass from dummy half Chris Aiton.
The Diehards went over again, this time courtesy of the mercurial Troyden Watene after a Haydan Lipp grubber kick found his hands, and a simple placement of the footy right in front had the home side up 12-0 after 10 minutes.
The Panthers first real opportunity to score came in the 21st minute as Paul Uhlberg stepped his way towards the chalk, but a mistimed pass found the sideline.
Wests were caught inside the 10 in defence 12m from their own line and Lipp banked the two points.
Panther Josh Afoa had been brought on in the 20th minute and his ability to score from close range put Wests on the scoreboard after 32 minutes on the clock.
From seven metres out, Afoa used a fend and some muscle to cross next to the sticks. At last, the Red and Black army had something to cheer about.
However, they were silenced 90 seconds from halftime as Valleys number four Greg Miglio crashed over after a blindside move and the Diehards headed to the sheds with an 18-6 lead.
The Panthers started the second half in the best possible way when Afoa again used his size and strength to put Wests back in the contest. He took five defenders with him and had to beat the right upright before going over.
The Klein brothers Rowan and Callum, along with Ryley Kajewski, combined to cross out wide with a quarter of football to go.
But when the Panthers were again penalised for being offside close to the line, Valleys extended their lead to 24-12.
Afoa again came close for his third, but the Boys in Blue were waiting for him this time.
Diehards’ fullback Andy Lancaster (in for the suspended Joe Bond) was outstanding from the outset as he set sail for the clincher, beating three Panthers on his way to the try line for the 30-12 win and a place in the grand final.
The Struddys Women’s Division 1 Preliminary final between Burleigh Bears and West Brisbane Panthers took place at Emerson Park last Saturday with defending premiers Burleigh proving too strong.
Burleigh’s Jasmine Kemp was the first cross under the uprights, and when five-eighth Zahara Temara finished off a length-of-the-field raid, the Bears were up 12-0.
Tries to Tayla Pilley and Chelsea Lenarduzzi sent the Bears to the sheds with a 22-0 lead.
Panther fullback Kellye Hodges weaved her way under the cross bar for her side’s first points of the day.
Bears left centre Amber Pilley shared bragging rights with her sister as she also crossed out wide for another try for her team.
Replacement winger Jordon Bell finished the scoring with three minutes left to go in the game when a cross-field kick found her alone, and with her first touch, she went over in the right corner to take the game 32-6.
Burleigh will again go up against Brothers Ipswich in the grand final Saturday at 2PM at Bishop Park.
Valleys Diehards 30 (Andrew Lancaster, Rowan Klein, Greg Miglio, Dylan Smith, Troyden Watene tries; Haydan Lipp 5 goals) defeated West Brisbane Panthers 12 (Josh Afoa 2 tries; Kane Zalewski 2 goals)
Next week’s game – BRL A Grade In Safe Hands grand final
Saturday, September 16, 2017: Redcliffe Dolphins v Valleys Diehards at Bishop Park – 4pm