Easts Magpies captain Matt Craven was the man of the moment on Saturday night, kicking a 79th minute penalty goal to pip Waves Tigers 14-12 in the Bundaberg Broadcasters Premiership qualifying final at Salter Oval.
The newly-crowned Bundaberg A Grade player of the year got the opportunity from a hotly-disputed strip penalty in the final moments, and made no mistake of adding the all-important two points for his beloved Magpies.
Waves had the chance to draw level and send the match into extra-time when they also received a penalty from the kick restart with 10 seconds on the clock, but after sharpshooter Clinton Horne was sin-binned for venting his disapproval of the Waves penalty a minute earlier.
Tyrell Howard stepped up to the kicking plate; but his difficult long-range shot narrowly missed, sentencing them to sudden death in their title defence.
The win sees Easts advance to the major semi-final against minor premiers Past Brothers this Saturday, while Waves will get their second chance in the minor semi which will feature last year’s grand finalists after Wallaroos scored a predictable, albeit hard-fought victory over Hervey Bay Seagulls 26-14.
The Tigers had beaten the Magpies in their three fixtures clashes in 2019, but there has been little between the two sides all season, with Waves prevailing by just four and two points respectively in their previous two showdowns, including a 22-20 thriller in the last round two weeks earlier.
The trend continued in the same vein in a pulsating end-to-end duel with scores locked at 6-6 at the break and 17-year-old Waves flyer Lachlan Santana again levelling the ledger with his second try in a superb senior debut in the 66th minute.
Easts missed chances to regain the ascendancy with a second disallowed try in the 72nd minute and a missed Craven field goal attempt with 2.36 left on the clock.
They were attacking the line when their former long-time star Reece Maughan, who moved to Waves last season, was penalised for stealing the ball in what was ruled as a two-man tackle, and the rest is now history.
Magpies coach Mick O’Sullivan praised his players.
“I was pretty confident because in the last week, we have had our best training sessions all year - you don’t want games as close as that but penalties cost us – they got a lot more ball than us – we had a few tries disallowed and we had to do it the hard way,” O’Sullivan said.
“I gave our forwards a spray at halftime because I didn’t think they were laying the platform but they came out in the second half and did that.”
O’Sullivan named halfback Kurtis Booth, one of just two club junior products in the side and a third generation Magpie whose late father John is a club legend, as his best in just his third game back from a work injury.
“Regular halfback Dylan Taylor was still a bit sluggish at training with the flu, so Kurtis went in there and did a great job and so did (first try scorer) Hayden Priestley – especially when they got tired, he was the one taking it up and leading by example,” he added.
“Matt Craven was also his usual brilliant self even though he has been away for Ergon apprentice training in Townsville for the last three weeks and has had no training runs, and Timmy Cole was solid at hooker once again.”
After also winning the Reserve Grade qualifying final, the victory completed a red-letter eight days for the club after Craven and Jackson Paulson took out the A and Reserve Grade player of the year double.
Tireless club worker Kelly Hammond picked up the Volunteer of the Year trophy at the BRL Presentation Dinner.
In the elimination match, Roos scored first through their mercurial veteran three times BRL A Grade player of the year centre Shaun Collins in the third minute, but Hervey Bay took the lead with a converted try 10 minutes later, and they stayed ahead until livewire Roos fullback Josiah Alberts broke through in the 34th minute for a 10-6 advantage.
Roos then put their stamp on the game with two tries in quick succession early in the second stanza, the first to their BRL Under 18 player of the year Bailey Robertson, who has doubled up every week to also be an integral part of their A Grade outfit, then with Alberts completing a personal double.
The Seagulls got back to within 10 points with one of their Under 18 rising stars Casey Russell crossing with 24 minutes left on the clock, but the Maryborough marauders regained control with Collins’ second try and Daniel Beatty’s conversion in the 71st minute.
Hervey Bay picked up a consolation try in the dying minutes, but it was always going to be a tall order for them without their captain and domineering front rower Steven Dwyer.
For Roos, if they are to remain on track for their third straight grand final, they will probably have to rise to another level when they suit up against Waves this week.
In the Reserve Grade qualifying final, Roos were no match for the Magpies with Easts triumphing 50-18.
Fijian winger Paula Naidika led the charge with a hat-trick of tries, centre Jordan Bowman picked up a double and Jackson Paulson added 12 points to his whopping regular season tally of 159 with one try and four conversions.
But it was a disappointing day all around for the Seagulls who suffered a heart-breaking 28-24 loss to Wests, who snatched victory after being behind for most of the game.
In the Bundaberg / Gladstone Intercity Women’s League, Tannum outgunned Hervey Bay 20-10 in the qualifying final in Gladstone, despite fielding just 14 players to Wallabys’ 19. Waves eliminated them 14-0.
Tannum will now meet minor premiers Brothers in the major semi final, while unlike their two men’s teams, the Seagulls’ women will get a second chance when they do battle with Waves this Saturday.
The Under 18 finals will start this Saturday with minor premiers Waves to duel with Roos for the right of direct passage to the grand final; while it will be sudden death in the showdown between Wests and Hervey Bay.
Main Photo: Easts Magpies players celebrate their Qualifying Final victory (back from left) Josateki Masibalavu, Sakenasa Lalakomacuata, Josaia Raboiliku, Matt Ross and Tim Cole (front).
A Grade Results
Qualifying final: Easts 14 (Hayden Priestley, Josateki Masibalavu tries; Matthew Craven 3 goals) defeated Waves 12 (Lachlan Santana 2 tries; Clinton Horne 2 goals)
Elimination final: Wallaroos 26 (Josiah Alberts 2, Shaun Collins 2, Bailey Robertson tries; Daniel Beatty 3 goals) defeated Hervey Bay 14 (Logona Vetemotu, Casey Russell, Tyson Miller tries; Logona Vetemotu goal)