Explosive centre Sakenasa Lalakomacuata bagged a double as Bundaberg’s Easts Magpies burst the Past Brothers bubble with a bang, inflicting their first loss of the season with a 42-24 win in their Round 13 A Grade Premiership clash at Salter Oval on Saturday night.
By their win, the Magpies moved back into second position on the table, four points behind the Brethren with three rounds to go, overtaking reigning champions Waves Tigers, who suffered a shock 21-18 defeat at the hands of hosts Hervey Bay Seagulls at Stafford Park.
In the process, the Seagulls regained the vital fifth-place and the inside running to a finals berth, again edging past Wests Panthers who had moved past them when they snatched a surprise 36-32 triumph over Wallaroos at Salter Oval.
The Magpies were also underdogs, but flashy Fijian Lalakomacuata first struck after just 80 seconds and from there, they were never headed in a show of brute strength, attacking potency all over the field and real character.
Brothers twice drew level, in the fifth and 47th minutes, but they failed to capitalise, repeatedly making bad mistakes, including allowing Easts to hit back immediately with a return serve in the 48th minute.
Not even the send-off of another of their Fijian force, rugged front rower Sailosi Narabe in the 55th minute could stop the black and white juggernaut as they ran away to an amazing victory with three more tries in the last 15 minutes.
Besides Lalakomacuata’s double, they had six individual try scorers including the perennial try machines they recruited from last year’s Waves premiership team, Trent Seeds and Billy Stefaniuk, and five-eighth Matt Craven, the former Brothers protégé who came through their junior ranks and starred in their 2011 grand final victory before being signed by Gladstone Valleys.
A stoked Easts coach Mick O’Sullivan said he remained confident despite losing Narabe with so long remaining.
“To tell you the truth, they trained the house down on Thursday night and nothing was going to beat them tonight,” O’Sullivan said.
“When they walked into the sheds, they were so focused – you could see it in their eyes and I knew they were going to win.”
O’Sullivan hoped Narabe would be treated leniency by the judiciary.
“He touched the referee on the back after being penalised, but that is the custom in Fiji as a way of apologising but you can’t do it here – hopefully they will take the cultural aspect into consideration,” the East coach said.
The Magpies have the bye this Saturday, when Waves will have the chance to reclaim second position if they can beat Wests at Salter Oval.
It was a red-letter day all-round for the club with their Reserve Grade team coming back from the dead to pip Brothers 36-34 with a sideline conversion after the siren by electrifying fullback Jackson Paulson.
This saw them join the Brethren on points at the top of the table, but they still trail them on for and against differential.
They will take on a much-improved Hervey Bay at Salter Oval this Saturday, then Wallaroos at Eskdale Park in the fixtures finale after their re-match with Easts in the penultimate round.
Earlier, the youthful Wests kept their hopes alive by prevailing at the end of 80 minutes in which the two teams traded tries, with 17-year-old winger Jensen Deamer, who had bagged a double in Under 18s earlier in the day, notching two more tries. The vastly experienced lock and team-mate Josh Tanner picked up the player of the match.
The Panthers have the bye in the second last round and unless they can topple the might of Waves this Saturday, their finals hopes are likely to come down to a last-round shoot-out with Hervey Bay on August 10.
Meanwhile; after having not beaten any side other than minnows Maryborough Brothers until a month ago, the Seagulls continued their steady emergence by taming the Tigers after having defeated Wests then drawn with Wallaroos at their previous two outings.
Waves had held on to shade Hervey Bay 30-28 in their only previous meeting this season, but the boot was on the other foot this time with the Seagulls securing the points with a late Logona Vetemotu penalty goal and Jayden Johnson field goal.
One of the few positives for Waves was 17-year-old dynamo Jai Smith scoring on his A Grade debut after coming off the bench.
Wallaroos consolidated their hold on to number one position in the Under 18 competition by turning the tables on Wests from the Bundaberg Toyota Challenge a week earlier, ambushing them 22-14 with a double to winger Brandon Johansen.
In the Women’s League, after 10 straight wins to start their season, Brothers slumped to their second straight loss, downed by Wallabies 26-14 in Gladstone with Australian representative fullback Chelsea Baker a match winner in her return to the Harbour City side, notching two tries and two goals in a signature highest quality all-round performance.
Round 13 A Grade Results
Wests 36 (Jensen Deamer 2, Jake Evans, Delroy Tanner, Dyirun Johnson, Daniel Tanner, Robert Telfer, Raymond Zysk tries; Ray Zysk, Nicholas Tanner goals) defeated Wallaroos 32 (Shaun Collins 2, Brandon Law, Lochlan Greenfield, Bailey Robertson, Ethan Hutton-Ward tries; Daniel Beatty 4 goals)
Easts 42 (Sakenasa Lalakomacuata 2, Josateki Masibalavu, Danny Moran, Matt Craven, Trent Seeds, Billy Stefaniuk, Sailosi Narabe tries; Matt Craven 5 Goals) defeated Past Brothers 24 (Brent Kuskey 2, Jamie Morey, Tyrell Priestley tries; Zak Bainbridge 3, Tyrell Priestley goals)
Hervey Bay 21 (Jayden Johnson, Tiko Hooper, Tyson Miller tries; Logona Vetemotu 4 goals; Jayden Johnson field goal) defeated Waves Tigers 18 (Arden Lankowski, Jai Smith, Tyrone Ward tries; Clinton Horne 3 goals)