The eighth round of the BRL A Grade In Safe Hands Cup produced three more thrilling contests as players made use of their last chance to impress selectors ahead of the Poinsettias team announcement this week.
Coach Mark Gliddon will select the best of the In Safe Hands Cup to compete at the State Carnival on the weekend of June 1-3 and his job will not be easy given the level of talent on display this weekend.
The heavyweight battle of the round saw the table topping Panthers travel to the nearby Emerson Park to take on the defending premiers, Valleys.
Pundits predicted a close encounter and they were spot on, with the Diehards scraping by with a 13-10 win.
Both teams had chances to post first point but were unable to convert. Panthers lock Dom Biondi got held up over the line, while big man Josh Afoa went close on a number of occasions.
At the other end, the Diehards unleashed their own attacking raid, but were repelled time and again by the best defensive team in the competition.
Finally, it was a penalty kick from Valleys halfback Jack Meirs that opened the scoring.
Panthers five-eighth Kane Zalewski had an opportunity to level with a penalty, however the kick went wide and at halftime the Diehards clung to a 2-0 lead.
The Panthers would register the first four pointer of the game five minutes after oranges as Zach Strasser tunnelled his way from dummy half to score out wide and give the visitors a 4-2 lead.
Diehards replacement Eddie Blacker was the man to score the first try for Valleys, as he strolled through a gap after a sharp face ball from hooker Alex Bishop.
Momentum swung again when Panthers winger Sam Collins plucked an intercept and won the foot race to score.
Zalewski slotted the conversion to give the Panthers a two-point lead, but a Valleys penalty saw the scores level shortly after.
The home side took the lead once again with nine minutes remaining thanks to an Alex Bishop field goal.
It would ultimately be the decisive blow, but not before Panthers centre Kennedy Pettybourne looked like he'd pulled off the match-winning play.
He busted through the defensive line and found James Old in support. Old ran away to score but the final pass was ruled forward. A penalty goal in the final minute led to Valleys claiming a three-point victory.
Alex Bishop, whose 71st minute field sealed the result, won praise from his coach Don Gailer.
"He was devastating through the whole game," he said. "He challenged them when he was at nine and then when he went out on the edge," Gailder said.
"He's not dropping his head when he comes back down (from the Intrust Super Cup with Norths), he's really aiming up to get back up there."
The Panthers remain alone at the top of the table, while the Diehards are equal third with the Bayside Seagulls.
Elsewhere the Dolphins picked up a 25-18 win over Easts at Dolphin Oval, while the Seagulls picked up a solid 24-8 win over the Magpies.
BRL A Grade In Safe Hands Cup Round 8 results
Dolphins 25 (Bryce Donovan 2, Tristan Hope, Tauaalo Vaipulu tries; Manaia Rudolph 4 goals, Bailey Butler field goal) defeated Tigers 18 (Jacob Teevan, Delroy Berryman, Leon Ellia-Niukore, Harley Aiono tries; Josh Ralph goal)
Diehards 13 (Eddie Blacker try; Jack Miers 4 goals, Alex Bishop field goal) defeated Panthers 10 (Sam Collins, Zach Strasser tries; Kane Zalewski goal)
Seagulls 24 (Jacob Tonge, Semisi Ahoafi, Kalolo Saitaua, Mitch McMillan tries; Jacob Tonge 2, Ben Jackson, Adrian Elder goals) defeated Magpies 8 (Josh Tuilagi, Lenny Magey tries)
* John Devine is the BRL A Grade correspondent for the QRL