Seagulls earn shot at back-to-back titles with big win

The Wynnum Manly Seagulls will be out to claim back-to-back In Safe Hands Cup titles after a comprehensive 40-16 win over West Brisbane in the preliminary final at Frank Lind Oval.

They will face Valleys Diehards who qualified after defeating the Panthers the previous week in the major semi-final at Bishop Park.

Minor premiers West Brisbane bow out after consecutive finals losses, while the Seagulls, who scraped into the top four with a win in the final round, will challenge the Diehards who finished second.

While it was a fairly dominant display for Wynnum, it was all Panthers in the first 20 minutes with Foisa Peni scattering several Seagulls with a massive hit and spin to score the opening try under the crossbar.

A 40/20 five minutes later to Seagulls hooker Tristan Hope signalled the momentum shift and indicated that the game was about to get blown wide open.

On the ensuing set of six, the maestro John Te Reo elected to run the ball, going straight through the defenders to put first points on the board for the visitors.

Rampaging Gulls second rower Brad Mana powered to the line and eventually got the ball down with three Panthers doing their best to stop him to no avail.

With three minutes remaining until halftime, Te Reo once again made it look easy as he crossed for a double. Te Reo had enough time before being swamped by joyous team mates to deliver his trademark post try ‘Gronk spike’.

On many occasions throughout the season, the Panthers have gone into the break without momentum, only to respond to the rally cry of their co-coaches with a spirited second half.

Unfortunately for the minor premiers, the halftime sermon did not bare fruit on this occasion as just three minutes after the break Andrew Clayton bullocked his way over next to the uprights for the Seagulls.

In the 57th minute, Edwin Ipape, who has been on fire throughout the finals, made his presence felt.

While having a slightly quieter first half, he exploded onto the scene with a run from dummy half on the Seagulls 30-metre line and after busting through some weary defence went all the way to the try line.

Trailing 28-6, a backline spread of the ball and the Panthers were finally over for their second try when James Olds went over in the right corner to breathe some life into the contest.

A Seagulls error close to their own line was pounced upon by the Panthers and this time left winger Campbell Mohr with a majestic dive into the left corner to give West Brisbane a sniff.

However, a bizarre try to Sam Elliot would slam the door shut. With three Panthers defenders holding the standing back rower up on the line, Elliott simply placed the ball between his feet on the chalk and the try was awarded and the contest was all but over in the 72nd minute.

With one minute remaining, Ipape made a break down the left side and with cover defence looming he turned the ball inside to Rashaun Denny who in turn fed Matt Milson who streaked away to score.

The victory sees the Seagulls into a second grand final in two years and they will take on the 2017 premiers Valleys at Bishop Park this Saturday at 3pm.

The winner will become the first team to win multiple BRL A Grade premierships since the reintroduction of the competition in 2015.

In Safe Hands Cup preliminary final

Wynnum Manly Seagulls 40 (John Te Reo 2, Matt Milson, Edwin Ipape, Brad Mana Sam Elliott, Andrew Clayton tries John Te Reo, Sam Elliott goal, Tristan Hope 4 goals) defeated West Brisbane Panthers 16 (Campbell Mohr, James Olds, Foisa Peni tries James Olds 2 goals)