History repeated itself as Waves Tigers were forced into extra-time before sealing a 30-18 victory over Isis Devils in the Bundaberg Broadcasters A Grade preliminary final at Salter Oval last Saturday night.
The win books the club their second grand final berth in three years, after last year bowing out in the second week of finals to the team that they will face in the big dance this Saturday.
In what could only have been described as a mistake-athon with both sides repeatedly giving away penalties and committing fundamental errors including each failing to find touch from penalty kicks; Waves surrendered a 16-0 lead late in the first half to ultimately finish regular time at 18-18.
They then broke the deadlock with explosive Tongan centre and former Brothers premiership winning ace Sekope Tua scoring his second try early on in the first 10-minute half of extra-time.
Then teenage five-eighth sensation Tyrell Howard, who was a star for Past Brothers in their premiership title last year, snatched a bouncing ball from a perfectly placed towering bomb and placed it under the posts in the fourth minute of the second term.
Another of their star recruits this season, dual BRL A Grade Player of the Year and 2016 Hervey Bay Seagulls premiership winning captain and halfback Clinton Horne kicked his fifth goal for a 12-point lead, which they safely guarded to the end.
The nature of their win had strong parallels to the same game two years earlier when Waves squandered a 28-0 halftime lead before drawing with Wests 28-28, but prevailed in extra-time 47-28.
The Tigers' other two first half tries were posted by two of their other electrifying backs and high-quality prolific scoring recruits, former Wests centre Trent Seeds and 2016 Seagulls premiership winger Billy Stefaniuk, who is in his first season in the blue and gold and again the competition's leading try scorer, bagging 25 in 17 matches.
However, the Devils got to within four points at the break with back-to-back tries, the first to their former Brothers premiership-winning centre Matt Craven, continuing his outstanding season, with fullback Zak Bainbridge, a star for the Tigers in their 2016 season of re-emergence after seven years of hell, landing the sideline conversion.
Several players were involved in an altercation after the try was scored, leading to the sin-binning of Isis second rower Dion Bunyan.
But despite that setback, the Devils scored again in their next set with crafty hooker Tim Cole, another former BRL A Grade Player of the Year, strolling through the middle of the ruck and plunging over under the posts, handing Bainbridge a simple conversion.
Seeds looked to have grabbed his second try six minutes into the second stanza before another flare-up, but not only was the try disallowed, Seeds was also sent to the sin bin and the Devils awarded a penalty.
Waves player / coach and former NRL, Origin and Test front rower Antonio Kaufusi tried to rally his side with some charging runs and tough defence, but Isis weathered the storm, and then hit the front for the first time with their gun centre Kurt Thompson finishing off a great team try under the posts to ensure all six points.
But the Devils kicked out on the full on the end of the ensuing set, which was the catalyst for a massive momentum swing.
The last 14 minutes was all Waves, and they levelled the ledger at 18-18 with a simple Horne penalty with 11.32 left on the clock.
Horne then kicked a massive 40/20 three minutes later, but on the end of that set, the ball hit the posts and rebounded into the safe hands of Thompson from a simple field goal attempt from in front of the sticks by Horne.
Howard then shanked another field goal shot from the same spot three minutes on.
Waves then got back-to-back sets in the Devils' red-zone, but Horne's stab kick was easily snaffled by Thompson, but while Isis also received a penalty, they again failed to find touch with their kick, handing the rampaging Tigers another attacking set.
Horne looked to have scored the match winner when he strolled through and touched down with just over a minute remaining, but their joy was short-lived with the try again disallowed for an obstruction.
Isis had 54 seconds for one last roll of the dice, but there was no way through, sending two battered, bruised and weary teams into an extra 20 minutes of battle.
In the end, Waves' superior fitness and teamwork got them home, but fatigue from the effort is likely to be a factor against a fit and fresh Wallaroos in the ultimate showdown.
In a first for the League, all four BRL grand finals will be played on Saturday with the A Grade the main event at 4.45pm.
Wallaroos will be hoping to go one better than last year when they suffered a heart-breaking 22-18 loss to Past Brothers.
They are also attempting to break a nine-year drought since they last held the trophy aloft after edging out the Brethren 40-38 in an epic 2009 decider.
Waves last reigned supreme 11 years ago when they pipped Easts Magpies 34-32.
WAVES 30 (Sekope Tua 2, Tyrell Howard, Trent Seeds, Billy Stefaniuk tries; Clinton Horne 5 goals) defeated ISIS 18 (Matt Craven, Tim Cole, Kurt Thompson tries; Zak Bainbridge 3 goals) at Salter Oval, Bundaberg.
Reserve Grade and Women's recap
Isis had better fortune in Reserve Grade, outgunning Wallaroos 34-28 with loyal club servant centre Jack Rowan in the thick of things with 14 points from one try and five goals.
A 14-man Roos were also beaten by Hervey Bay 34-14 in the Under 18 qualifier, with Seagulls halfback Dominic Maguire bagging a double.
Waves' Women also booked a grand final berth in just their second season with a 34-4 drubbing of the Seagulls - hooker Kristin Gibbs notching a hat-trick and winger Emily Howell picking up a double.
Waves will take on Past Brothers, who will be gunning for four straight titles and their eighth premiership in the nine-year history of that competition.
Grand final day will kick off at 9am with the annual Under 16 All Stars match, followed by the Women's game at 10.30am, Under 18 at 12pm and Reserve Grade at 2pm.
Seven of the affiliated BRL clubs will be involved among the four grand finals, with Waves the only one that will be dually represented.
Wests (Under 18) and Easts Magpies (Reserve Grade) are the other grand finalists.
RECAPPING THE JUNIOR GRAND FINALS
Wests were the only Bundaberg club to win a premiership in the junior grand finals on Sunday.
The Under 16 Panthers accounted for Roos 40-12 with Melbourne Storm contracted precocious talent five-eighth Zac Laybutt, whose elder brother Kyle has played two NRL games for the Cowboys, amassing half of their points with two tries and six conversions.
This Panthers team finished their junior careers with a clean sweep of premierships through all age divisions.
Hervey Bay claimed two titles, at the expense of Brothers 42-10 in the Under 13s and Wests 34-4 in the Under 15s, while Wallaroos downed the Seagulls 20-12 in an all-Fraser Coast affair in the Under 14s.
*Vince Habermann is a QRL Correspondent covering the Bundaberg Rugby League.