BROTHERS are back.
That was the emphatic message to come from Woogaroo Field yesterday where the Brethren beat Goodna 19-12 in their Ipswich Rugby League clash.
It put Brothers' nose in front of their fierce rivals in the race for the IRL A grade minor premiership.
The emotion in coach Tyron Day's voice as he addressed his players at full-time proved what it meant to them.
It was a committed team effort, several levels up on what Brothers have produced of late.
There were none better yesterday for Brothers than prop Jake O'Doherty.
By full-time, he could barely see out of his right eye, swollen almost shut after some friendly fire from a collision with a teammate.
But it couldn't prevent the grin from spreading when he was asked what the win meant.
"It was a really good game," O'Doherty said.
"Probably the best we've had all year since I've been here.
"We worked really hard at training on defence and it was a lot better than last time."
Brothers' defence had been uncharacteristically lax in recent losses to West End and Norths.
But the rise in intensity on those efforts yesterday was clearly visible.
"I think everything in footy comes from defence," O'Doherty said.
"It's what has been lacking.
"We know we've got points in us, but we've tended to switch off for 10 or 15 minutes.
"We didn't do that today."
Brothers were boosted by the return of prop Josh Afoa from injury.
His presence had been sorely missed and it was a powerful run out wide from Afoa that led to Brothers' first try, with centre Tasi Graff cutting open the scrambling Goodna defence to score.
"I thought he was really strong for us," O'Doherty said of Afoa.
"You're not going to beat Goodna by just going up the middle.
"So we tried to play a bit wider."
For that to succeed, someone still had to do the dirty work in the middle of the ruck.
O'Doherty did it magnificently while Goodna props Ethan Tafili and Fa Tauaa were amongst their team's best in a fierce battle for forward dominance.
"We held their big boys out, which is always a challenge," O'Doherty said.
O'Doherty attributed his form to losing 10kg since the start of the season, with his new job as an apprentice plasterer contributing.
"It was one of my better games," he said.
"I'm starting to get back there."
It was obvious from both sides that September action is just around the corner.
The smell of finals footy in the air made for a much higher standard than last time the two teams met a month ago.
Then the match started poorly and went downhill.
Yesterday's game was fiercely contested, with tries coming from converted pressure.
Both teams' hookers crossed for tries from dummy half in the first half with Brothers leading 12-6 at the break.
While Brothers appreciated Afoa's presence, Goodna sorely missed injured lock Max Seumanutafa.
Goodna matched Brothers for much of the game.
But their final play options lacked penetration, too often relying on a Corey Kirk kick and some luck to deliver tries that didn't come against such committed opposition.
Both teams crossed for a second half try each before a Jason Connors field goal with a minute to go sealed it for the visitors.
In other A grade games, Fassifern beat West End 42-8 and Norths beat Swifts 40-28.
IRL A-grade ladder: Brothers 24, Goodna 22, Norths 21, Fassifern 16, Swifts 9, West End 4.
State of play
Brothers lead the race for the IRL A grade minor premiership by two points from Goodna with two matches remaining.
It means Norths trail Goodna by a point in the battle for second spot, with the chance to overhaul them when they clash on Sunday.
Fassifern have sealed fourth spot with Swifts and West End the teams to miss out on finals.
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