Bolstered by another star recruit in Galo Mariner, reigning champions Waves Tigers responded to their first-up loss to Wallaroos in the best possible way, beating Easts Magpies 34-12 on Saturday night.
In the Bundaberg Broadcasters A Grade Premiership third round showdown at Salter Oval, the game was stopped with 17 minutes remaining after Easts’ player Cody Stibbards suffered a serious neck injury, and it was ultimately abandoned after medical staff, then ambulance officers treated him on the ground for more than half an hour.
His injury dulled all players’ moods, but nothing could take away from the magnitude of Waves’ performance and Waves coach, former NRL star Antonio Kaufusi said they would “celebrate a pretty big win”.
The match featured the first clash against their team of last year for Easts’ two biggest recruits in the competition’s top two try scorers in 2018 in Trent Seeds and Billy Stefaniuk, but it also pitted former Magpies front row tyros Ross Larsen and Tyrone Ward against their former team for the first time.
It was also an emotion-charged season debut for game-breaking five-eighth Tyrell Howard, who was also signed by Easts back in November, but returned to the Tigers when things did not work out as he had hoped with the Magpies.
Kaufusi said Larsen, Ward and Howard let their actions do the talking with inspired performances.
Larsen scored Waves’ second try, but the result was in the balance with the Tigers ahead just 12-6 in the 35th minute, before Howard broke the game open with a signature try.
Centre Sam Robinson then followed suit on the stroke of the siren for a 16-point advantage at oranges.
They went further ahead, claiming their third try in the space of 13 minutes (either side of the break) when Mariner, a former Parramatta Junior, NSW Cup player for Wests Magpies and Manly Sea Eagles, showed all his class and strength in his club debut to power over four minutes into the second stanza and Clinton Horne kicked his fourth goal.
The key signing is not new to the CQ area, representing the CQ Capras in 2015-16 before playing the past two seasons with Gladstone Valleys.
Stefaniuk scored his first try in the Black and White nine minutes later and Matt Craven converted to get them back to within 16 points with 26 minutes left on the clock.
But fill-in Tigers captain and lethal lock Reece Maughan, restored the balance with what was to be the last play of the game with another superb four-pointer in the 63rd minute.
Play did not restart after that as Stibbards was injured in the lead-up to that try.
Kaufusi said “the best thing [for him]” was that his players took the game out of Easts’ hands in the first half.
“We continued in the same vein in the second half – we had to be tough and we found a way and our two front rowers (Larsen and Ward) and Reece (Maughan) set the tone in defence – it is fitting that they are all ex-Easts players and it meant a lot to them but the whole lot got up against them,” the former NRL star said.
Waves’ next match will be against another arch-rival, the unbeaten Brothers on Saturday week.
In Hervey Bay, Wallaroos made it three wins from as many matches, proving far too good for their hosts, the Seagulls, to the tune of 32-10 with six of their highly potential backline sharing the spoils with one try each, along with blockbusting front rower Will Jung, while halfback Luke Waters continued his red-hot form, claiming his third straight Man of the Match award.
Roos have the bye in the next round after the Easter recess on Saturday, April 27.
With no fixtures on Saturday, May 4 due to the 47th Battalion Carnival and Saturday, May 11 due to the NRL Magic Round at Suncorp Stadium; they will not play again until they suit up against Wests on Saturday, May 18.
Meanwhile, Bundaberg Brothers white-washed their beleaguered Maryborough counter-parts 128-0 with star centre Tien Nguyen finishing one short of the BRL A Grade try scoring record in a game with his haul of seven, with the mark still held by now at Waves mercurial halfback Horne after he racked up eight for the Seagulls against Wests back on August 9, 2008.
Imposing fullback Zak Bainbridge notched 48 points with two tries and 20 conversions, most from wide out, but he too fell just short of Horne’s points scoring record in a game of 56 after he also kicked 12 goals in that route of the Panthers almost 11 years ago.
Nguyen and Bainbridge were both beaten for the Man of the Match award by electrifying five-eighth Jayden Alberts, who bagged three tries and set up countless others.
Meanwhile, Brothers continued on their winning ways in the Bundaberg / Gladstone Intercity Women’s competition, but they were pushed all the way by a much improved Waves before getting home 16-4 after scores had been deadlocked at 4-4 at the break.
Veteran hooker Jude Bust, 43, picked up a try, along with two of their rookies, 18-year-old winger Zara Johnson-Gamia, who was a part of Waves’ grand final team last year, and 17-year-old Rockhampton product Maddison Riedy-Brown, in her second game for the club after having last season off.
But classy centre Tiara Best was their Player of the Match.
At Stafford Park, hosts Hervey Bay Seagulls edged out Tannum 14-12 in a three tries a side battle, with centre Louise Rainbow bagging a hat-trick but fullback Holly Blucher a match winner with the only conversion of the match.
Brothers also triumphed in Reserve Grade, outclassing Burnett Cutters 44-12 with doubles to their Man of the Match second rower Daniel Finter, Prodigal Son fullback Dylan Arndt and flashy winger Tan Zoto.
Wests had the bye in A and Reserve Grades but their Under 18 side flexed their muscle against Waves 36-4 with crafty hooker Joel Baldwin crossing twice, along with winger Brennan Gynn.
ROUND 3 A GRADE RESULTS
Bundaberg Brothers 128 (Tien Nguyen 7, Jayden Alberts 3, Zak Bainbridge 2, Ben Kambanei 2, Hayden Golchert 2, Tyrell Priestley, Taylar Barritt, Tyla Hodge, Jamie Morey, Ben Kuskey, Logan Tanzer tries; Zak Bainbridge 20 goals) defeated Maryborough Brothers 0
Waves Tigers 34 (James Brosnan, Ross Larsen, Tyrell Howard, Sam Robinson, Galo Mariner, Reece Maughan tries; Clinton Horne 5 goals) defeated Easts Magpies 12 (Matt Ross, Billy Stefaniuk tries; Matt Craven 2 goals)
Wallaroos 32 (Josiah Alberts, Brandon Law, Brandon Clayton, Zeke Varley, Shaun Collins, Luke Water, William Jung tries; Luke Waters 2 goals) defeated Hervey Bay 10 (Tiko Hooper 2 tries; Logona Vetemotu goal)