Wests v UQ: The best Premier Rugby semi final of all time?

The first week of finals produced one of the greatest games ever played in Queensland club rugby as Wests’ secured their first grand final birth in sixteen years after defeating UQ. The Bulldogs will either play UQ or Brothers after the latter’s strong semi-final win over GPS.

Catch a review of the action below.

Wests 37 v UQ 37

One of the greatest contests in Queensland club rugby history has resulted in Wests progressing to their first grand final in sixteen years after a marathon semi-final battle with UQ at Yoku Road on Saturday.

Because neither side could be separated after one-hundred and ten gruelling minutes of rugby, Wests’ ability to score the first points of the match ensured their victory. 

The first half of the major semi-final narrowly belonged to the minor premiership winning Bulldogs. With the first three tries of the game stemming from rolling mauls, two of which UQ’s hooker Cam Flavell added, the contest was evenly poised heading toward the main break. In the 40th minute however, Wests’ prop Jacobus Eloff produced a momentous charge down of a Jock Campbell kick to give lock Angelo Smith an easy try that meant the Bulldogs would lead by seven at half-time.

Wests started the second forty how they ended the first with one of the fastest tries of 2022. Back rower’s Lopeti Faifua and Keynan Tauakipulu combined from the Bulldog’s kick off to score within thirteen seconds of the second stanza and extend the lead to fourteen points. UQ proceeded to put the foot down by scoring twenty-seven consecutive points in the next thirty minutes. Cam Flavell crossed two more times throughout the Student’s fightback before winger Joe Pincus put the Red Heavies in front with then minutes to play. 

Trailing by ten in the 79th minute, it would have seemed inconceivable for Wests to mount a challenge. Yet the Bulldogs produced a miracle as Cooper Whiteside crossed twice, his second coming in the 94th minute. The fullback was unable to convert either of his sideline kicks which meant extra time was to be introduced to decide the first grand final qualifier.

The topsy turvy semi-final kept reaching new heights as both sides scrambled to find scoring opportunities within the allotted ten minutes of extra time. Both defences remained steadfast in the tense final stages at Yoku Road. With both teams out on their feet, it took a brutal shot from Wests’ No.12 Vilikesa Raboiliku to dislodge the ball from Isaac Aedo Kailea’s hands and put an end to the enthralling contest after nearly one-hundred and ten minutes of game time. Neither team deserved to lose but Wests’ conversion in the third minute ultimately decided the contest on a first team to score basis.

Last year’s heartbreak is this year’s sweet relief for Wests. They will now have a fortnight to recover from their epic grand final qualification and await either UQ or Brothers in the big dance on September 17th or 18th.

Brothers 23 v GPS 18

Brothers are through to a preliminary final with UQ after a hard-fought semi-final win against rival GPS at Scifleet Stadium on Sunday.

GPS made a bright start to the contest when inside centre Bernie Nickel showed brilliant footwork and speed to score first under the uprights. The Christian combined for the Brethren minutes later as prop Jaiden added their first points. The physical encounter saw both sides concede yellow cards and subsequent penalty conversions prior to the main break to leave the score locked at 13-13.

With scores level in the early stages of the second half and defences rock solid, only some James O’Connor and Harry Wilson magic could break the game open. In a heads-up play, O’Connor identified and put Wilson through a rare hole in GPS’ line before getting an offload back and sending the Brothers’ faithful into raptures at the neutral venue. The Gallopers wouldn’t die wondering despite trailing by ten with four minutes to play. Despite throwing everything they could at their rivals in the dying minutes, including an enterprising try to Teti Tela, GPS couldn’t find their way through Brothers’ defence a second time. 

Brothers will now meet UQ in a preliminary final at Bond University to decide who meets Wests in the grand final at Suncorp Stadium while GPS’ season ends with a brave display.