Under 18 halfback Sam Tobin celebrated his A Grade run-on debut on the wing in style, scoring Waves Tigers’ first try of each half to spearhead the reigning champions to a hard-fought 26-20 victory in their penultimate Bundaberg premiership encounter against Wallaroos at Salter Oval on Saturday.
In the wash up to the night, the result was enough for them to join Easts on match points, but move one point of them into second place due to for and against after the Magpies went down fighting to minor premiers Past Brothers 24-20 in the match that followed.
Second place will now be up for grabs between the Tigers and the Magpies when they meet in the last round game of the season at Salter Oval this Saturday evening, but regardless of the outcome of that showdown, it will be a dress rehearsal for their rematch in the qualifying final a fortnight later.
Wallaroos welcomed back their star halfback Luke Waters for his first club game since April 13 after requiring knee surgery for an injury sustained playing for Bundaberg in the 47th Battalion Carnival in May, and they drew first blood with winger Edward Booth, backing up from Reserve Grade and playing his first game in top division for two months, scoring in the fifth minute.
But they lapsed and Waves turned up the heat and took an 18-4 lead with three tries in quick succession.
Roos stemmed the haemorrhaging and got back to within four points at the break with firstly Booth completing a double, then Joe Byrne, who started on the interchange bench, crossing with 56 seconds remaining.
The Tigers re-established a 10-point buffer with Tobin’s second try and mercurial veteran fullback Clinton Horne’s fourth conversion in the 56th minute to go with his try.
Wallaroos got back to within four points with a try to their vintage five-eighth Shaun Collins and Waters conversion in the 71st minute, but Horne stretched Waves’ advantage back to a converted try when he kicked truly from a fortuitous penalty with 3:33 left on the clock.
A Waves knock-on on the end of the ensuing set invited Roos back, and the result went right down to the wire with Tobin hailing inspirational captain and lock Reece Maughan as a match winner for racing 50 metres to make a try-saving tackle in the corner as the siren sounded.
Tobin savoured his double but said he just took his opportunities and he did not have to do much for his first try other than catch the ball and put it down.
“Everyone dug in and I think there will be a more positive mind-set after tonight,” he said.
Although he had only previously played four minutes in A Grade this season, Tobin senses the feeling in the team is “pretty good overall” despite a “couple of tough losses in the last few weeks”.
Coach Antonio Kaufusi said they needed to win and he was happy to get it with their two rugged second rowers Kristian Colasimone and Nick Samra fantastic.
“Kristian has been very good week in-week out and Nick, on the right edge, had his best game he has played for us - it was a really important game for us and it gives us a shot at two chances in the finals,” the Waves coach said.
“But we were a bit clunky and I said to Simmo (club president Ashley Simpson) that if we lose, half of the guys who are sitting in the dressing room would not be part of the club next season and I would be looking to rebuild but thankfully I don’t have to go there as they responded well in the second half and their effort was fantastic.”
On the other hand, Wallaroos, who have won their first five games but have just one draw and six losses from their past seven outings, will be better after Waters’ comeback match, but they face another big challenge this Saturday against Brothers, although they will have the home ground advantage at Eskdale Park.
With only one round remaining, the grand finalists are likely to come from the top three sides with last Saturday’s epic duel between Brothers and Easts again showing that they are two who are on track to battle it out for the ultimate prize on September 14.
Tobin also performed in the lower grades with a try for the Tigers Under 18s to snatch a 26-24 win from the jaws of defeat against league leaders Wallaroos; meanwhile, the hot and cold Wests thrashed Hervey Bay 36-6 with a three-try haul to a hat-trick to Papua New Guinean powerhouse centre Livingstone Lingawa.
The two results mean there is just two points from first to last in the four-team competition with Roos on 15, Waves and Seagulls on 14 and Wests on 13, with all teams still capable of claiming the coveted minor title, and Roos hosting Wests and Waves to suit up against Seagulls.
Meanwhile, Brothers clinched the Reserve Grade minor premiership with flashy winger Jarrason Purcell bagging a hat-trick to spearhead them to a 36-26 victory over Easts in their top of the table showdown.
Wallaroos consolidated third place with Lachlan McConnell also racking up three tries in a 50-28 blitz of wooden-spooners Waves, while fourth placed Hervey Bay edged out Burnett Cutters 18-14, with the Cutters retaining fifth position on points’ differential, ahead of Wests.
Confirmed women’s minor premiers Brothers white-washed cellar dwellers Valleys/Roosters 32-0 in Gladstone with star centre Tiara Best notching a hat-trick of tries, while Hervey Bay, who had forfeited a week earlier, moved into second position by defeating Wallabies 22-12, and Waves remained in fifth spot despite continuing their late season charge with a 14-10 dispatch of Tannum despite fielding a bare 14 players.
Round 15 A Grade Results
Waves Tigers 26 (Sam Tobin 2, Clinton Horne, Mapa Kailea tries; Clinton Horne 5 goals) defeated Wallaroos 20 (Edward Booth 2, Shaun Collins, Joe Byrne tries; Luke Waters 2 goals)
Past Brothers 24 (Joshua Birch, Zak Bainbridge, Nathan Moore, Hayden Golchert tries; Zak Bainbridge 4 goals) defeated Easts 20 (Mesulame Ratubola 2, Josateki Masibalavu, Matthew Ross tries; Dylan Taylor 2 goals)