One day after what would have been his late mother Leisa’s 50th birthday, front rower Flynn Purkis delivered another personal tribute to her, plunging over for a try in the second half of extra time to pave the way for a drought-breaking boilover for Wests Panthers.
The Panthers claimed a 34-26 victory over Easts Magpies in the Bundaberg Broadcasters A Grade Premiership elimination final at Across The Waves Sports Complex on Saturday.
Purkis, now 19, was a passenger in the car in which Leisa and his younger sister Emerson were tragically killed in an horrific accident in November 2018, and with their names and images tattooed on his arms, he plays his every game in their memory.
There may have been a bit of divine intervention in his role in the result.
Wests had lost their past five matches, while 2021 grand finalists and early season title favourites, Easts, were on a three-game winning streak ahead of the clash.
The Magpies looked in control when they established a 20-6 lead in the first half, but the Panthers reduced the deficit to 10 by half-time.
The Magpies were then held scoreless in the second stanza while the Panthers drew level at 20-all, with two tries and one conversion, sending the match into two 10-minute halves of extra time.
Easts also scored first in the first half of extra-time, with halfback Andreas Nona - who has been outstanding all season - grabbing his second try and captain/coach Matt Craven adding the extras for this try.
But again Wests equalized at 26-all with a try to high-class lock Shaun Ezzy and veteran former dual BRL A Grade Player of the Year Clinton Horne stepping up to convert in just his fourth game of the season after suffering a serious shoulder injury back on April 23.
With scores deadlocked heading into the second half of extra-time, the Panthers hit the front for the first time with Purkis cracking the line to dive over in the third minute, before Horne added the extras for a six-point lead.
Easts tried hard to respond, but Horne took control, and also kicked a penalty, which was angrily disputed by the Magpies with three minutes to go, giving them an eight-point safety buffer.
They guarded this for their lives as the clock ticked away.
The quietly-spoken Purkis was happy to let his actions do the talking and was delighted to make such a vital contribution.
Panthers captain Dan Tanner finished the game with an ankle injury but has vowed to be fit for the minor semi-final next Saturday afternoon against Hervey Bay Seagulls, who were beaten by two-times defending champions Past Brothers 42-22 in the qualifying final.
Tanner said it was good to field a near full-strength team for the first time since June, and that the returns of his brother and hooker Josh, and Horne had been crucial.
“They helped build a bit of resilience in the group, and this result will give us match fitness and the confidence that we can go all the way – it will also a big help to have our coach (another of his brothers) Corey (Tanner) back from suspension next week,” Tanner said.
For Easts - after again promising so much this year - their season is over, and their premiership drought stretches to 17 years.
Meanwhile, Hervey Bay were struck down by a “bad flu” during the week, and they had a number of big outs, including three of their best, Logona Vetemotu, Jeri Pati, and Dion Bunyan.
Brothers were always in control against a very willing Seagulls, establishing an 18-0 lead in even time, and never relenting.
Five-eighth, Pat Templeman, again stamped his class for the Brethren, amassing 22 points with two tries and a perfect seven conversions, while powerhouse centre Connor Jones also bagged a double for the second week in a row.
Templeman has been instrumental in getting their quest for a hat-trick of titles back on track after their form had been patchy all season.
Inspirational Brothers dual premiership-winning captain and front rower Kevin Sherriff said Templeman was their players’ player.
“Pat’s kicking game was outstanding which built pressure on Hervey Bay, and everyone else lifted - (second rower) Jake Thompson also had another good game – he had plenty of tough carries which created a lot of momentum for us," Sherriff said.
Brothers will now take on minor premiers Waves in the major semi-final at Salter Oval at 11am this Sunday, in the curtain-raiser to the Canterbury Bulldogs v North Queensland Cowboys’ NRL game, and Sherriff said “plenty of experience across the field” will hold them in good stead.
“Our job is to make sure we stick to our game plan for 80 minutes to give ourselves the best chance to progress to another grand final,” he said.
Hervey Bay coach Jacob Blanke was proud of the efforts of his players, and he hopes to be close to full strength for their showdown with Wests this Sunday, when there will be no more second chances.
WESTS PANTHERS 34 (Viliama Molisi, Bruce Ikamanu, Clinton Horne, Shaun Ezzy, Flynn Purkis, Tyson Douglas tries; Chris Robinson 3, Clinton Horne 2 goals) def EASTS MAGPIES 26 (Andreas Nona 2, Trent Seeds, Aisake Masiwala tries; Andreas Nona 4, Matthew Craven goals).
PAST BROTHERS 42 (Patrick Templeman 2, Connor Jones 2, Eden Hess, Tyrell Priestley, Bryden Blair tries; Pat Templeman 7 goals) def HERVEY BAY SEAGULLS 22 (Issac Mielczarek, Malachi Lawton, Dominic Maguire, Ethan Ballard tries; David Woodbridge 3 goals).
Toowoomba A-grade wrap
The Dalby Diehards returned to the winners circle with a solid 24-12 win over
Warwick at Dalby Leagues Club in front of a large crowd.
As the game evolved, it grew in intensity.
Dalby had the better of the start, leading 18‐0 at the break.
Young star Lykhan King‐Togia showed maturity beyond his 17 years when he grabbed an opportunity in the 11th minute, after Dalby had not been many times in Warwick’s end zone.
Warwick did have their share of possession in that period but could not
They came to play and put it to Dalby but the Diehards grinded
away and Dylan Taylor scored after a Sam Fermor break in the 19th minute for Dalby to take the score to 12‐0.
Dalby’s bench players went a long way to helping them secure the win.
Ramon Filipine and Joe Mua were tremendous, with Filipine scoring a match-turning try just before half-time.
Warwick came out the better in the second half and the game lifted accordingly.
Both teams knew the importance of the match. The Cowboys were excellent in the first 20 minutes of the second stanza. They held the ball for long periods and Morgan Bryne scored to get the Cowboys on the board.
That 52nd minute try was followed up by a special Mitch Watson try. Warwick Half Mitch Wilson chip-kicked for Watson.
He juggled when he collected the ball and with still plenty to do, he shrugged off the Dalby defence and scored near the posts whilst falling backwards.
It was a good period for the Cowboys and they had Dalby under the pump,
but the Diehards reacted well and, slowly but surely, turned the momentum
Eventually, one of the Diehards' best in Sam Fermor scored with 12
minutes remaining and Dalby led 24‐12 and that was enough to close out
Player of the match Billy Jackwitz played his best game of the season. In a
crucial game, he stood up, especially in defence.
Sam Fermor played well and wingers Tevita Falau and Mike Gaur were also very good as was Lykhan King‐Togia.
But it was Xavier Manley who played long minutes that epitomised Dalby’s resolve and they go to Goondiwindi next weekend to complete this tough four game stretch full of confidence.
Warwick were defiant in defeat and can be very proud of themselves. All
players contributed with Harry Sullivan and Mitch Watson delivering
Dalby 24 (Sam Fermor, Dylan Taylor, Lykhan King‐Togia, Ramon Filipine
tries Alexander Dunemann 2, Dylan Taylor goals) def Warwick 12
(Mitch Watson, Morgan Byrne tries Mitch Watson 2 goals)
Brothers 40 (Mitch Revell 2, Sam Betros, Blake Jackson, Kerion
Parravicini, Jaren Bender tries Sam Betros 7 goals) def Souths
20 (Wade Austin 2, Kyle Petersen, Kyle Jarvis tries Ben Cook 2
Valleys 26 (Harrison Murphy 2, Declan Wheeler, Dylan Chown, Joel Currie,
John Maila tries Travis Turnbull 2 goals) drew with Oakey 26 (Benji
Neliman, Tuia Eliu, Sam Cocker, Kaleb Stanton, Faletoese Faletoese tries
Dylan Adamson 4 goals)
Gatton 110 (Shannon Hicks 4, Jayden Williams 3, Ben Seul 2, Mitch Graham
2, Tyson White 2, Fine Faingaa 2, Allan Morris 2, Isaiah Walden, Tupu Lisati,
Sione Foueti tries Shannon Hicks 15 goals) def Newtown 4 (Kalemb
Wattles 25 (Jackson Green 2, Tyson White, Kai Duggan tries Matt Duggan
4 goals and a field goal) def Highfields 6 (Jarrod Lee try Josh Fanning
Goondiwindi 50 (Geoffrey Prince 2, Chris Woodbridge 2, Jed Kindt 2, Mal
McGrady, Ash Jarrett, Michael Hazard tries Chris Woodbridge 7 goals)
def Pittsworth 4 (Mason Bloom try)