Hat-trick hero sends Norths to grand final
RUGBY LEAGUE: A try scoring hat-trick to flying winger Harlem Russell and gritty team defence saw Norths Chargers book a Rockhampton A-grade grand final spot on an afternoon of high drama at Browne Park yesterday.
Norths were on track to inflict minor premier Yeppoon's first defeat of the season, leading 24-16 with 21 minutes to play in the preliminary final, when Chargers centre Troyson Bassani went down with a broken ankle.
The game was stopped for almost an hour while paramedics attended to Bassani on the field, before he was taken away in an ambulance.
Injury marred the match right from the outset - it was less than a minute old when Yeppoon fullback Tully Wehmeier limped from the field with what looked to be a hamstring problem and he did not return.
Both teams traded blows deep into the first half until Yeppoon centre Jace O'Neill capitalised on a right side sweep to score.
Following a successful conversion, Yeppoon took a 16-12 lead into the break.
Early in the second half, Norths flier Russell bagged two tries - the latter quite spectacular where he plucked a kick out of the air and raced the best part of 90m to score - and it was then that Norths could sniff an upset leading 24-16.
But any momentum Norths had was lost when Bassani came to grief.
When play resumed after the lengthy delay, it wasn't long before Norths scored again through halfback Jackson Harris.
And when Mitchel Smith added the extras, the upset looked good at 30-16.
But Yeppoon rallied and with 11 minutes left on the clock, front rower Gavin Hiscox barged over and a successful conversion brought the margin back to eight.
Norths repelled set after set in defence on their own line and with one minute remaining the flying winger Russell took an intercept and ran the length of the field to complete his hat-trick and Norths 36-22 victory.
Earlier in the elimination final, defending premier Brothers kept its 2019 aspirations alive with a crushing 38-16 win over Emu Park.
It wasn't a good start for Emu Park when former NRL flier Rhys Wesser was a late withdrawal.
Things got worse for them when, less than two minutes into the match, their halfback Masada Iosefa was sin-binned for 10 minutes for a late hit.
Down to 12 men, Emu Park cracked not long after when Brothers prop Roarke Christensen crashed over to score from short range.
Harrison Griffin added the extras for a 6-0 lead.
Brothers dominated field position as Emu Park spent most of the first half camped inside their own 50.
In the 26th minute, Brothers lock Declan Mallia ran onto a peach of a pass from five-eighth Griffin to cross on the right edge.
Griffin again converted for a 12-0 lead.
With less than three minutes remaining in the first half, utility Tylen Wallace scooted 20m from dummy half to score under the sticks.
Griffin's boot took the lead out 18-0.
Brothers then scored after the half-time siren had sounded courtesy of a left-side shift which put centre Christopher Lee across the chalk.
The conversion was missed and Brothers took a 22-0 advantage into the break.
The second half started poorly for Emu Park with a drop ball from the kick off.
In the 47th minute Emu Park got on the scoreboard when fullback Travis Field pounced on a Masada Iosefa kick to score.
Minutes later Iosefa was at it again, putting a grubber through for lock Reuben Hamson to cross.
Travis Field's second successful conversion brought the difference back to ten points and Emu Park were back in the game.
But the comeback was short lived when, in the 60th minute, Brothers hooker Steven Donovan crashed over from dummy half and the conversion took the lead back out to 28-12.
When Emu Park's Field got a 10-minute stint in the sin bin shortly afterwards, his side's hopes were spent and Brothers ran away with the game 38-16.
Yeppoon will now play Brothers on Saturday at Browne Park with the winner to meet Norths in the grand final.