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Panthers look to upset dominant Diehards in exciting semi-final clash

Finals time is here for the BHP Premiership following a season filled with great games that unearthed some exciting new talent.

This Saturday at Totally Workwear Stadium, the first of two semi-finals will kick off with two traditional Brisbane Rugby League rivals renewing hostilities with Valleys Diehards and West Brisbane Panther facing off.

Valleys come into this final as minor premiers, after beating Burleigh Bears 24-0 last week following a strong performance.

While the match was tight early, the Diehards ran in three tries in the final 10 minutes to post a big win.

However; overall, it was a comprehensive finals performance from Valleys who did everything right and were able to capitalise on some great defence.

The Diehards had 54 percent of the ball and had an 84 percent completion rate, but when they didn’t have the ball, they were able to stop the Bears making a single line break for the match.

That effort was led by Valleys superstar Ali Brigginshaw who was everywhere and produced a finals performance that earned her the Hastings Deering player of the match honours.

With eight points from three conversions and a penalty goal, 11 runs for 102 metres, one-line break assist, one try assist and 13 tackles; her side will be hoping their skipper can repeat that performance this week.

Brigginshaw’s kicking game last week should be hanging in an art gallery; it was a work of art.

By kicking early and often, the Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons captain was able to make 237 kick metres from 13 kicks and also landed one 40/20 that drove the dagger into the hearts of the Bears.

Of her performance, Brigginshaw said she was feeding off the enthusiasm of the younger Diehards.

“It’s great to watch girls like Portia Bourke take her first hit up, she just wanted the ball,” Brigginshaw said.

“We think we can improve on the Bears game; we are constantly talking about getting better and what better place to start than finals.

“Wests have an outstanding forward pack and will be coming through our middle, so it will be a different game to last week.

“We need to prepare and be ready for that to happen.”

Valleys coaching staff member Paul Dyer was excited for what lay ahead for the side with the place in the finals a good reward for a dominant season.

“The girls are really excited about Saturday and we haven’t had to put a lid on it at all,” Dyer said.

“It was addressed in the sheds after the Bears’ game by the girl themselves.

“The fact is that round games are over, and it doesn’t mean anything now.

“If you turn up on Saturday with a poor attitude, then you are going to get beaten.

“The Panthers are a great team who have made the finals because they have had a good season, so that needs to be acknowledged and respected.”

Sarah Riorden for Valleys Diehards. Photo: Jason O'Brien / NRL Images
Sarah Riorden for Valleys Diehards. Photo: Jason O'Brien / NRL Images

While Brigginshaw was a standout, there were plenty of other strong performers including Savannah Pratton who made 23 tackles and Rosanna Mauga who made 153 metres for Valleys. Emma Sykes was tremendous with two tries for the Diehards as well.

Waiting for the Diehards on Saturday will be the West Brisbane Panthers.

The Panthers are coming off a 22-18 loss to North Queensland Gold Stars in Mackay and will be looking to take their ball control into this final hit out.

The Panthers had 55 percent of the ball, but just couldn’t bust the Stars open. They could only find two-line breaks with all that possession.

The Panthers had some big match performers; Taimane Levu was great for the mud and bloods with 186 metres of power, which also included 19 hit ups and 13 tackles. Therese Aiton led the Panthers defence with 36 tackles.

This weekend, Panthers coach Craig Green will be looking for his side to lift against Valleys.

“We have a young team and our goal was to make finals, but now we are here we are ready to go,” Green said.

“The girls are excited to play against Valleys who were great against the Bears and we will have to combat that on Saturday.

“I am excited, to be honest, no one expects us to win, but we will go there with a great attitude, ready to go and you just never know.”

Panthers fullback Lilly Green has played six games this year, scoring four tries and is ready to make an impact in the finals.

“It’s great to be playing finals,” Green said.

“We have to go Saturday and be ready to take on Valleys, they’ve got some great players, but in finals you don’t’ know what’s going to happen.

“We will give ourselves the best chance if we play to our potential.”

The do-or-die semi-final clash will be broadcast live and free from 12.50pm on QRL.com.au and the QRL Facebook page.

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Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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