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Bundaberg Round 8 preview: Battles of the birds and big cats

Fresh from racking up a half century of points against two-time defending champions Past Brothers, Hervey Bay Seagulls return home this weekend to take on Easts Magpies in the Bundaberg Broadcasters A Grade Premiership.

After last week's 54-16 triumph in the wet at Salter Oval, Hervey Bay will face a tough challenge tomorrow, May 28, against early season favourites Easts, who have lost some of their aura on the back of two straight losses and will be desperate to return to the winners’ circle.

The Seagulls plucked the Magpies 42-38 in their previous meeting this season at Salter Oval on April 9, with both sides scoring seven tries.

Their only defeat so far was at their next start a fortnight later, going down at home to Wests Panthers 38-24.

In what has been a stop-start season so far due to breaks for Easter and the 47th Battalion - plus the wash-out two weeks ago - Easts were edged out by Wests Panthers 14-12 on May 7, prior to a shock 22-4 mauling by Waves Tigers on Sunday.

Last Sunday, Seagulls coach Jacob Blanke said goal kicking halfback David Woodbridge continued his outstanding season to be man of the match, ahead of centre Chris Wicks and teenage powerhouse forward Tiko Hooper.

But despite having also put Brothers to the sword 54-32 at home on April 2, Blanke is not getting carried away, and he has his troops primed for a Magpies attack.

“They (Brothers) were missing half their team and that was a big reason (for the blow-out) but our kick chase game tired them out ... Magpies are a very good side, and we will have to be on our game,” Blanke said.

Meanwhile, the jointly-second placed Tigers and Panthers meet in what is expected to be a pulsating Battle of the Big Cats at 3pm on Sunday.

Waves also upset Wests 32-24 in their April 9 duel, but then after scorching Roos 40-6, they were beaten by Brothers 28-16, before re-asserting themselves as contenders against the Magpies five days ago when their former North Queensland Cowboys National Youth League star fullback Cody Maughan was the Railway Hotel Player of the Round.

Tigers coach Antonio Kaufusi said they had “been working hard on defence” and it paid handsome dividends.

“We know if we could defend it will give us a good chance in any games we play," Kaufusi said.

"I was really happy with our effort in defence, and we just kept turning away Easts when they had every right to score - I think they had about eight sets in a row on our line and we held them out. It was tough conditions with the rain which was more pleasing.

“Jacob O’Shea shifted into the halves, and he has been playing backrow for us all year because Brendan Grills was injured. He was fantastic with his talk and decision making and he was our man of the match. Also, Cody shifted to fullback and was outstanding, and special mention to our forwards and Sam Tobin who provided spark coming off the bench.

“But we can’t rest on our laurels, and we know Panthers will also be hungry for the points this week after their game against Roos last week was abandoned due to the even wetter conditions in Maryborough.”

Elsewhere on Sunday at Salter Oval, Brothers will welcome back much of their cavalry and get the perfect chance to get back on track when they meet the winless Wallaroos at 1.30pm.

Main image: Easts Magpies captain/coach Matt Craven kicks during their recent loss to Wests Panthers. The two-time BRL A Grade Player of the Year will be on a mission to lead his side to victory over league leaders Hervey Bay Seagulls tomorrow.

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