The Wests Mackay Tigers have advanced to the Components Only A Grade grand final after defeating Carltons Devils in a spiteful and bruising preliminary final encounter at the Mackay Junior Rugby League Grounds.
Despite an early second half surge from Carltons, Wests' control over the contest saw them never really threatened, running out 36-18 winners and booking their highly-anticipated rematch with Townsville Brothers in the big dance.
Wests got off to a great start when a pinpoint Dan Boyd cross-field bomb found the hands of flying winger Nev Grant, who planted it down on the right edge.
The Tigers doubled their lead after forcing an error from Carltons deep in their half - prop forward Jack Brock crossing beside the posts after a powerful 20-metre charge.
Grant ensured Wests took a comfortable 18-0 lead into the sheds at half-time when he collected his second try out on the right flank, with quick hands finding him the space he needed on the overlap.
Carltons found a response early in the second half when ex-NRL star Ben Barba sliced through a gap in the Tigers line with a blistering turn of speed.
The Devils continued to close the gap when a long cut-out pass found winger Nathan Benson, who squeezed in the right touch line to get the ball down.
The minor premiers stemmed the flow following a penalty in Carltons' territory - second rower Kimi Hempono crossing out wide on a surging run.
A costly Carltons error saw them slip further behind when the ball jarred loose back into their own in-goal, with Sheldon Bobbert swooping on the loose ball to give Wests a 20-point buffer with a quarter of the game remaining.
Bobbert grabbed his second try not long after when a grubber towards the in-goal deflected into his path down the right flank.
This was before Carltons found points through Byron Taylor on the left edge, despite being a man short through a sin-binning.
Wests sealed the result, and a grand final berth, with a quick scoot down the left flank from Kellen Jenner out of dummy half, but Carltons were able to bring their season to an end by adding a consolation try as the full-time siren sounded.
Tigers second-rower Kellen Jenner was quick to note the physicality of the contest post-match, as he looked forward to next week’s grand final with Townsville Brothers.
“We were fortunate to get a couple of tries back-to-back, but full credit to [Carltons]," Jenner said.
"You know what you are going to get with them, they’re going to bash you for 80.
“[Sheldon Bobbert] has been great this year, having good centres to take the pressure off you, someone like Jack Brock who can take that tough carry for you and roll the sleeves up.
“It [the grand final] will be won in the centres, whoever wants it more.
"We’ve taken each week as it comes, and the boys have worked hard all year.”
The A Grade decider kicks off at 6pm Sunday, October 4 at the Mackay Junior Rugby League Grounds.