Tigers, Magpies stay in hunt as Phins claim top spot

The Redcliffe Dolphins have moved to the top of the In Safe Hands Cup ladder at the conclusion of Round 17.

A win for the Dolphins and a loss for the Panthers has seen them again swap places as they continue to dual for the minor premiership.

The Seagulls, Panthers and Dolphins have cemented a top three position, but where they will sit come the end of Round 20 is as clear as mud while the battle for fourth continues to intensify.

The Magpies and Tigers both picked up wins again this past weekend, while the Diehards suffered another defeat.

The Tigers are now within one point of the top four after defeating the Panthers 26-18 and registering back-to-back wins in the process.

They entered Suzuki Stadium, Langlands Park with their season on the line; but feeling confident having dispatched the Panthers in their previous meeting at Arana.

The Panthers have stumbled of late and with this loss they have again relinquished top spot to Redcliffe.

Wests were first to score and it came within the first five minutes of play. A simple through the hands play started by Mikaere Beattie on the Tigers 10 metre line found right centre Kennedy Pettyboune.

He drew two defenders and got a flick pass to the unmarked James Olds who went over to score. Debutant Cory Paix nailed the conversion.

Easts upset the Panthers in Round 21. Photos: QRL Media / Vanessa Hafner
Easts upset the Panthers in Round 21. Photos: QRL Media / Vanessa Hafner

The Tigers hit back two minutes later as Brayden Torpy put fullback Brett Kelly through a hole. Kelly took on Panthers fullback Kyle Van Klaveren and managed to slip by to cross in the right corner, levelling the scores.

Easts were in again as left centre Leon Ellia-Nuikore found himself at the end of a passing movement from right to left for the big fella to crash over, giving the Tigers a lead they took with them into halftime.

Easts would open the scoring in the second stanza with Torpy hitting second rower Adam Crear, who was running with vigour close to the line and smashed through.

Trailing by 12, the Panthers needed to hit back and they did so five minutes later, again through the brilliance of Pettybourne who, with a hit and spin two metres out, was able to offload to Mitch Hallinan who in turn found Ethan Marrinan in support to cut the lead to six.

Tigers half Josh Ralph has been in superb form in 2018 and he was at his best with a cheeky grubber kick inside the Tigers half. He regathered on the Panthers 20m and was knocked off balance by the defence, but was able to get to his feet and find Chris Ostwald in support.

With Panthers returning in numbers, Ostwald put a chip kick into the in goal. A favourable bounce had left winger Connor Jones fly high, fumble mid-air, regather and with inches remaining score an outstanding try to extend the Tigers lead, 28-12.

A successful short kick-off gave the Panthers field position, allowing Kobe Hetherington to muscle over and bring the visitors back within a converted try with 14 minutes left on the clock.

It was a close as they would get, however, as a penalty to Easts right in front with five minutes remaining saw the Tigers secure a 26-18 victory.

"I thought we had about 35% possession and we defended pretty well against a very good side," Tigers coach David Krause said.

"We've got a lot to work on, but we got the two points and we're still alive and on to next week."

Krause said his halftime instructions didn't exactly go to plan, but that they were able to adapt and get the result they needed anyway.

"I thought we were on top physically. I said control the ball, not give penalties away, and as usual we did neither," he said with a wry smile.

"But we did a lot of defending in the second half and showed a lot of character so that was good."

Saturday's twilight fixture saw the Dolphins hold off a fast finishing Bayside Seagulls 22-18 after Redcliffe were led 20-0 earlier in the contest.

The Magpies, meanwhile, kept their season alive with a 22-12 win over the Diehards on Sunday at Davies Park. They are now just two points out of the top four with three weeks left.

In Safe Hands Cup Round 17 Results

Dolphins 22 (Jed Simbiken 2, James Flack Tony Tumusa tries; Reece Braun 3 goals) defeated Seagulls 18 (Corey Davis 2, Kalolo Saitaua tries; John Te Reo 3 goals)

Tigers 26 (Brett Kelly, Leon Ellia-Nuikore, Connor Jones, Adam Crear tries; Brayden Torpy 5 goals) defeated Panthers 18 (James Olds, Kobe Hetherington, Ethan Marrinan tries; Cory Paix 3 goals)

Magpies 22 (Luke Archer, Cody McIntosh, Sam Elliott, Jesse Matafeo tries; Sato Ketia-Opo 3 goals) defeated Diehards 12 (Tom Collins, Callum Klein tries; Brett Doherty 2 goals)

In Safe Hands Cup Ladder   
1. Dolphins  39  +77 
2. Panthers  38  +27 
3. Seagulls  37  +76 
4. Diehards  31  -76 
5. Tigers  30  +67 
6. Magpies  29  -171 

* John Devine is a QRL correspondent covering the BRL A Grade