DRAG(O)N A COWBOY | The St George-Illawarra Dragons have claimed a narrow win over the reigning prem...
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Thr biggest Saturday crowd of the season packed Lang Park for the best Saturday match of the season, when Brothers defiantly held off Redcliffe 19-15 to sew up fourth spot for the finals. In a thriller, fortunes fluctuated as first Brothers appeared to have the match won, before a gallant Dolphins came storming back, before a match-winning try with 5 minutes remaining. A physical opening saw only a Greg Holben penalty goal in the first 20 minutes. But in the next seven minutes, the Brethren piled on another ten points when first Holben, then centre Shane McErlean scored tries, blowing the lead out to 12-0. Redcliffe, their season on the line, toughed out the rest of the half in their own territory, before Bunny Pearce landed a penalty goal right on half time. The second half opened at a frenetic pace, eventually resulting with Dolphins centre Peter Leis capping off a brilliant team effort, when he dived over from dummy half. Pearce converted to make the score 12-7. The match pulsated as it swung from end to end, before Len Chemello put Brothers further ahead with a penalty goal. Some sustained attacking raids then saw the Dolphins right back in business as Leis crossed again, leaving the score 14-10. With the match in the balance, Redcliffe second-rower capitalised on some continued possession to barge over with 12 minutes remaining. Pearce took a lifetime to line up his kick in near deathly silence, before the Lang Park foundations were shaken by the roar of the Dolphins fans as his conversion neatly dropped over the red dot. The Dolphins held tight for seven minutes, before a tidy blindside play by Brothers hooker Jay Hoffman put big prop Peter McNamara over for the sealer. It was a vintage match, one of the best of the season. Stars for the match were McNamara and half Greg Quinn who dominated much of the play. For Redcliffe, the tried and true trio of Bunny Pearce, Peter Leis and Tony Obst were outstanding. The win iced a fine day for Brothers, as they took reserve grade 14-7 and third grade 29-6.
Gibraltar-like defence by Souths saw them tough out a physical 14-9 win over an inconsistent Norths in the Sunday match of the round at Lang Park. 20-year-old centre Mal Meninga proved to be the difference in the match for Souths, when he landed 4 crucial goals from as many attempts, and tackled himself to a standstill. Other superb defensive efforts were Chris Phelan who made 40 tackles and second-rower Ash Lumby with 37. However, besides the defensive effort, Magpies coach Bob McCarthy would be concerned at the number of tries blown by errant passing or poor handling. Devils coach Graham Lowe was slightly more positive in saying his Norths side had not played well, and missed the injured Mark Graham, yet still only lost by a converted try. The Magpies led 7-0 at the break, with winger Gary Thompson scoring a try and Meninga 2 goals. An exchange of penalty goals saw Souths leading 9-4 by the 56th minute. However, a fumbled pass soon after the re-start, saw Souths win the scrum for centre Bruce Astill to sneak over to seal the match at 14-4. The Devils battled hard for the remainder of the match, but were very one-dimensional in their attack. Half Ross Henrick was rewarded with a late try for a strong performance, but Norths were never going to bridge the deficit. Souths prop Geoff Naylor was another star, with blockbusting runs and some good offloads, and created plenty of havoc for the Devils forwards. The effect the Magpies centre pairing is having on the competition is massive, with Meninga now scoring 208 points, and Astill notching his 18th try. In earlier matches, Souths also won reserves 11-9 and thirds 15-7.
Easts finally discovered a winning combination when they demolished Wynnum-Manly 31-12 at Langlands Park. From the first minute of play, the Tigers went on the attack, prop Shane McNally landing a penalty goal. 6 minutes later, McNally forced his way over for a try, then converted, for Easts to lead 7-0. Another McNally penalty had the Tigers out 9-0 after 10 minutes, before the Seagulls started to gain some possession. Two Daryl Jenner penalty goals, followed by a superb team try eventually scored by Barry Legge, put the Baysiders back in the game at 9-7. But Easts lifted a gear and ran in two more tries to Colin Scott and Mike Teevan running up to half time for a commanding 19-7 lead. The Seagulls opened the second half strongly, and saw Legge controversially cross for his second try. Legge apparently lost control of the ball when diving over the line, but the view of referee Harry Dearness was shielded by a number of Easts defenders. However, the Tigers had far too much pace in attack and sting in defence for the Seagulls, and they dominated all facets of play for the remainder of the match. Easts centre Peter Fitzgerald was in everything during the second half and was rewarded with two top tries. State players Colin Scott and Alan Power were superb for Easts, while half Terry Saunders and second-rower Darryl Heidke were best for Wynnum-Manly. Easts also won third grade 29-8, while the reserve grade finished an 11-all draw.
Valleys paid a high price for their dominant 22-7 win over cellar-dwellers Wests at Neumann Oval. Although winning by an apparently comfortable margin, injuries to Peter McWhirter, Wally Lewis, Ross Strudwick, Alan Mills, Peter Flynn and Bryan Neibling was not a good sign with the finals only a week out. A surprisingly big crowd squeezed into the Valley ground, and they weren't disappointed. The Diehards scrumbase trio of Lewis, Strudwick and McWhirter were in fantastic form, dictating play from the outset. The Panthers weren't pushovers though, maintaining their recent good form, and forcing Valleys' hand on many occasions. Superb kicking in general play by Lewis and Strudwick provided much of the thrust for Valleys win. Time and again the ball would bounce away from Panthers defenders, causing chaos deep in Wests territory. Vic Weiland scored two tries and McWhirter one, to see the Diehards leading 11-2 at halftime. When Wests prop Bill Whitmore crashed over early in the second half, the score became 11-7. But the Diehards simply hit top gear. A number of long runs downfield put Valleys in good attacking position, but a number of dropped passes prevented what could have been a more comprehensive victory. Sterling defence by lock Norm Carr and Whitmore kept Wests within sight of Valleys, but the Panthers lack of scoring options after so much defending proved crucial. Lewis, winger Peter Falvey and prop Al McInnes all crossed for tries in the second half. Poor goal-kicking also prevented the Diehards from recording a greater win. In lower grades, Valleys won 10-2 in reserve grade and 27-7 in third grade.
Souths lead the competition on 31 points, while Valleys sit on 30, followed by Norths and Brothers on 26, Redcliffe on 21, Easts 10, Wynnum-Manly 9 and Wests 7. Souths have also stitched up the club championship title. Brothers are now two wins clear in reserve grade, Easts a win clear in third grade, Valleys lead the under-23 grade, with Brothers and Redcliffe joint-leaders in under-21 grade.