Seagulls keep their title hopes alive
HERVEY Bay's young troops have again stepped up when under siege to pull off a gutsy 34-26 victory over Isis Devils in Sunday's elimination semi-final at Salter Oval.
The Seagulls seemed in control when they led 28-22 with six minutes remaining, but the Bundaberg Rugby League clash was turned on its head when playing co-coach Tyrone Hopgood was sent off for a trip on Devils five-eighth Nathan Sullivan.
An unconverted try to the Devils shortly after reduced the margin to two before some magic from TJ Horne sealed the game for the Seagulls, setting up Tom Freshwater with a pin-point chip-kick.
The Seagulls move on to play Eastern Suburbs next week after the Magpies were beaten 28-18 by Western Suburbs.
Injured Seagulls player-co-coach Mitch Yarrow said Horne's risky play typified the team's all-or-nothing attitude.
"When they (Isis) scored, the message went out to them that 'this is our season you're playing for. You're playing for each other and what's on your chest'," he said.
"The boys had to dig deep, especially when they were a man down, but it was good to see the guys come away with the win."
Horne's shock inclusion for his first A-grade match since dislocating his shoulder against Eastern Suburbs in Round 7 was a boost for the team, but the Seagulls struggled to get going early as errors crept into their game.
Despite failing to complete many of their sets, the Seagulls overcame their sluggish start to lead 14-6 at half-time courtesy of a four-pointer to try-scoring machine Billy Stefaniuk near the break.
Led by prop Darcy Horgan and supported well by Ronald Fisher, who delivered one of his best displays off the bench this season, the Seagulls forwards made plenty of inroads.
But the Devils, who had lost to the Seagulls in their previous two encounters, refused to lie down, trading tries with the potent Seagulls attack in the second half.
Hopgood didn't miss a beat upon returning from a shoulder injury that kept him on the sidelines for two weeks, finishing with a double.
But he faces a nervous wait to see if he will be charged for his trip on Sullivan.
It's about the only negative for Hervey Bay, who could have Yarrow and Tyson Woodman back from injury for next week's clash with Easts, while Horne and backrower Anthony Lindeberg got through yesterday's game well and will be much better off for the run.
Yarrow said the players would take a lot of confidence out of beating Isis, but would need to improve on their ball handling if they are to beat the Magpies.
In other news, the Seagulls had three players recognised during the 2013 BRL Awards night on Friday.
Victor Davis was named reserve grade player of the year, Sam Burns picked up the under-18 player of the year award and Hopgood received the honour of A-grade representative player of the year.
Hervey Bay 34 (T Hopgood 2, T Freshwater, B Stefaniuk, B Eldridge, J Nissen, D Horgan tries; T Hopgood 2, K Everett goals) def Isis 26 (P Grant 2, Z Suter, J Bryant, J Neilley tries; Z Dann 2, N Sullivan goals)