Wynnum Manly and Easts have cemented their spots in the Intrust Super Cup finals after they both sides recorded impressive victories over fellow top-five rivals in Round 24 action over the weekend.
The Tigers maintained second spot on the ladder after three early tries against Tweed Heads opened up an 18-4 lead midway through the first half. Last year's grand finalists then ran away with the contest from that point, scoring a further six tries on route to a 40-4 drubbing with Richie Kennar bagging a hat-trick and Cody Walker and Jarrod McInally scoring two each.
Tweed Heads have now lost three on the trot having previously gone 12 games unbeaten and have dropped to fifth on the ladder after sitting second at the conclusion of Round 21.
In other Round 24 results, Burleigh Bears recorded a comfortable 20-6 home victory over Souths Logan Magpies while the Northern Pride maintained their unassailable lead at the top of the table with a hard-fought 18-16 win over the Cutters at Stadium Mackay.
Norths Devils added to Sunshine Coast's misery with a 36-0 shutout of the Falcons with Sam Foster scoring twice and Todd Murphy booting four goals. The Redcliffe Dolphins also registered a long overdue victory with a 42-10 thrashing of Central Queensland Capras in Rockhampton.
There are three important fixtures to look forward to in Round 25 with the shape of the top five far from being set in stone. Northern Pride (first – 42 points) will host the Ipswich Jets (fourth – 32 points) at Barlow Park in Cairns with the Jets coming off a bye and in desperate need to return to winning ways after being thrashed by the Hunters in Round 23.
Souths Logan will host the Hunters on Sunday with the match now a must-win for PNG as they currently sit in sixth spot on 29 points, two points behind fifth-placed Tweed Heads. Tweed Heads should be able to snap their three-game losing streak when they take on the Falcons at Sunshine Coast Stadium on Saturday night, therefore keeping PNG at bay until the final round.
The Tigers will be seeking to preserve their spot in second place when the travel south to take on the Burleigh Bears in the third match of significance in Sunday's Channel Nine match at 2pm.
The remaining matches in the penultimate round of the Intrust Super Cup see Mackay host the CQ Capras and Norths Devils at home to Redcliffe.
However in Sunday's match of the round, Wynnum Manly maintained third spot on the ladder after holding out a hungry PNG Hunters side that were in desperate need of a win in order to stay in touch with the top five.
Playing in front of a strong home crowd at Kougari Oval in Wynnum, the Seagulls had a try disallowed eight minutes in and were constantly frustrated by a staunch PNG defence until the 22nd minute when Graham Clark forced his way over the line and halfback Matt Seamark added the extras for a 6-0 Wynnum Manly lead.
Thompson Teteh snatched one back for PNG after 28 minutes with a strong solo effort to take the score to 6-4 before Ben Cronin nabbed another for Seagulls with Seamark extending the lead out to eight points.
Seamark nailed a penalty goal 35 metres out for the Seagulls on the stroke of half-time as the home side went to the sheds 14-4 in front.
The Seagulls had a perfect start to the second stanza after PNG lost the ball close to their line resulting in a try to fullback Daniel Ogden. The fullback was the beneficiary of winger Peter Gubb's great athleticism as he outjumped opposite number Garry Lo and batted the ball back into Ogden's path for an 18-4 Seagulls lead after 43 minutes.
Perennial try scorer Garry Lo grabbed PNG's second try of the match after another trademark stampeding run enabled the winger to notch up his 23rd try of the season in the 52nd minute.
Teteh came close for the Hunters in the 68th minute but was dragged down inches short of the line by Jordan Kahu with Wynnum receiving a penalty in the next set to compound PNG's woes. The resulting play saw Kahu rewarded for his earlier defensive effort, with the Broncos utility sneaking over in the corner to take the Seagulls out to a handy 22-10 lead inside the final 10 minutes.
Cowboys-bound hooker Jake Granville sealed the contest in the 79th minute with a smart dart from dummy-half to plant the ball down on the stripe directly under the sticks. Seamark slotted the conversion on the fulltime siren as the 'Gulls ran out 28-10 winners.
Wynnum Manly Seagulls 28 (Graham Clark, Ben Cronin, Daniel Ogden, Jordan Kahu, Jake Granville tries; Matt Seamark 4 goals) def. PNG Hunters 10 (Garry Lo, Thompson Teteh tries; Noel Zemming 1 goal) at BMD Kougari Oval, Wynnum. Half-time: Seagulls 14-4. XXXX Man of the Match: Mitchell Frei.
For all detailed results and the updated Intrust Super Cup ladder click here.