Beaten grand finalists Wallaroos claimed their maiden Bundaberg A Grade minor premiership title with two rounds to go, sentencing former favourites Waves Tigers to their third straight loss, winning 24-12 at Eskdale Park, Maryborough on Saturday night.
The Tigers could muster only 15 fit players for the top-of-the-table, high-stakes showdown despite coach and former NRL, Origin and Test star Antonio Kaufusi lining up for just his second game of the season.
Forfeiting their Reserve Grade seemed to a telling factor as the full-strength Roos established a 10-6 halftime lead before going right on with the job.
Earlier on the program, reigning premiers Past Brothers kept their finals hopes flickering with a 40-22 victory over Maryborough Brothers in the curtain-raiser to the Country Week clash between Burleigh and the Capras.
At Salter Oval, Easts Magpies held on to fifth spot with a 44-12 win over joint-cellar dwellers Hervey Bay Seagulls, and after having demolished Waves by 50 points a week earlier, Isis Devils missed a golden opportunity to move into second spot on the table by succumbing to a hot Wests Panthers 30-16.
Waves led 6-4 in the 29th minute, but powerhouse front rower David Ball put the Roos' stamp on the game with tries either side of the break and while the Tigers got it back to 14-12 with 11 minutes to go, the hometown heroes sealed the result with two tries in the last two minutes.
Wallaroos take on Past Brothers in a clash of last year's grand finalists at Salter Oval this Saturday night, before crossing swords with Waves in the last round at the same venue, but they are now five points clear at the head of affairs and cannot be overtaken regardless of the outcome of their next two outings.
Waves should snap their losing streak when they suit up against Maryborough Brothers in the first game of the A Grade triple-header this week.
Past Brothers were always in control against the Maryborough Brethren last week with centre Klint Beer leading their charge with a double, but they were again far from impressive and they will need to improve greatly if they are to stop the Roos' juggernaut this week.
The premiers are still two points behind Easts, and if they lose this week and the Magpies are able to defeat the Devils, Easts will clinch fifth place and the last finals' position.
If they both lose, it will come down to a battle for fifth place between Easts and Past Brothers in the last game of the fixture season on Saturday, August 4.
It was business as usual for Easts last week with explosive centre Matt Ross snaring three tries adding to the two each scored by lethal lock Gordon James and flashy winger Anare Malanicagi, but their margin could have been far greater as they converted only two of their 10 tries.
They will face a smarting Isis this Saturday after the Devils took on the Panthers without their biggest guns Kurt and Jake Thompson and a few other stars, and they were given a reality check.
Blockbusting front rower Ray Zysk laid the platform for Wests with two tries in a heavyweight all-round performance.
Panthers will be favourites this week when they venture to Hervey Bay to meet the Seagulls in the curtain-raiser to the region's second Intrust Super Cup clash in as many weeks, Sunshine Coast Falcons hosting Northern Pride.
In Reserve Grade, Isis maintained a three-point lead over Easts with fullback Ethan West bagging a hattrick of tries in a 60-6 demolition of Wests, setting up an epic penultimate round duel between the Magpies and Devils this Saturday.
Maryborough Brothers resurrected their title defence by moving into fifth place on for and against points differential, ahead of Wests, with their fullback Ethan Fisher amassing 24 points with two tries and eight conversions in a 44-16 thumping of the Bundaberg Brothers.
In the Under 18s, Wallaroos slipped from first to third with a 42-12 drubbing by Hervey Bay, who climbed one spot to second, with Wests moving to No. 1 with doubles to fullback Gage Laird and interchange player Livingstone Lingawa featuring in a 28-6 taming of the Tigers.
In the Women's League, Past Brothers powered on towards another premiership with their former Queensland lock Nicole Curtis racking up 26 points with three tries and seven goals and centre Tiara Best also chiming in with a hattrick in a 50-16 despatch of Isis.
ROUND 14 A GRADE RESULTS
EASTS 44 (Matt Ross 3, Gordon James 2, Anare Malanicagi 2, Justyn Porter, Danny Moran, Kenny Nadaro tries; Jamie Lowien 2 goals) defeated HERVEY BAY 12 (William Kluck, Tiko Hooper tries; Ben Keelty 2 goals)
WESTS 30 (Ray Zysk 2, James Prichard, Joseph Doyle, Willie Nagas tries; James Prichard 5 goals) defeated ISIS 16 (Matt Craven, Steven Brudzinski, Ethan West tries; Matt Craven 2 goals)
PAST BROTHERS 40 (Klint Beer 2, Tyrell Priestley, Aaron Hall, Hayden Golchert, Jamie Morey, Ben Kuskey tries; Ben Kuskey 6 goals) defeated MARYBOROUGH BROTHERS 22 (Dalton Harry 2, Hayden Edmunds, Paul Shillingsworth tries; Dalton Harry 3 goals)
WALLAROOS 24 (David Ball 2, Sam Hutchins, Edward Booth, Shaun Collins tries; Daniel Beatty 2 goals) defeated WAVES 12 (Daniel McLennan, Trent Seeds tries; Clinton Horne 2 goals)
LADDER AFTER ROUND 14: Wallaroos 24, Waves 19, Isis 18, Wests 17, Easts 16, Past Brothers 14, Maryborough Brothers 2, Hervey Bay 2
*Vince Habermann is a QRL Correspondent covering the Bundaberg Rugby League.