IN A possible grand final preview, the Wondai Wolves and Cherbourg Hornets A-grade locked horns and had fans on the edge of their seats in a game balanced on a knife edge.
The Hornets, three-time consecutive premiership holders, looked stunned in the opening half despite being the first to score in the President's Cup.
With a lot of new players in the ranks, the Hornets revealed chinks in their armour previously impenetrable in its former teams.
But with many of Cherbourg's more experienced players having retired, it was time for the new guard to show its worth.
Only the Wolves stood in front to steal the Hornets' home turf victory.
With only one loss so far this season, the Wolves have proven to be serious premiership contenders.
Wolves' skipper Luke Hedges ordered his troops about and had them play their hearts out against his team's closest rivals.
"They scored first but we came back and built a bit of a lead in the first-half," Hedges said.
"The defence was awesome."
A solid backline applied the brakes on the Hornets' standout running game and stemmed Cherbourg's scoring.
A familiarity descended over the Wolves once control was instilled on the field to put them in auto-pilot mode.
"Everyone has been playing in the same position," Hedges said.
This formation maintenance helped reinforce the role each Wolves' player had but also gave them a sense of direction.
But the energy expense of chasing the Hornets off the Wolves' tryline took its toll in the second-half.
"It was rough," Hedges said.
"We sort of dropped off in the second-half."
This opened a much-needed gap for the Hornets and allowed Cherbourg to play its natural running game and effectively counter to swing the game's favour its way.
Drastic measures were needed to stop the Hornets from stealing the win.
Hedges heightened the intensity of his tackles but as a result received a blow to his nose which left him bloodied.
Bandaged up, Hedges continued his barrage of tackles.
But the Hornets continued to press on with devastating pace, outrunning the battered and bruised Wolves.
With seven minutes to go the Hornets sat just four points behind as cries of "All you need to do is play football" broke across the field as players eyed the 34-30 score.
Hornets president Warren Collins said this was costly with the lead within reach.
At the end of the game the Hornets fell 36-30.
Collins said the Hornets need to settle in the semi-finals where the two teams will clash against one another in a rematch.
"There was too much hot-headedness out there," he said.
"It was a tough game.
"But it's always tough against Wondai."
Despite the many new faces in the Hornets' squad, Collins believes there is still the same flare the previous premiership squads possessed.
"They have always played a similar brand of football," he said.
Rugby league results
>> Wondai beat Cherbourg 36-30
>> Minor premiers: Wondai on 23 points
>> Cherbourg beat Kingaroy 26-22
>> Wondai beat Nanango 38-10
>> Murgon beat Central Burnett 34-8
>> Minor premiers: Cherbourg on 23 points
>> Kingaroy beat Cherbourg 16-10
>> Nanango beat Wondai 36-10
>> Central Burnett beat Murgon 56-14
>> Minor premiers: Kingaroy on 26 points
>> Central Burnett beat Murgon 36-30
>>Kingaroy drew with Cherbourg 0-0 as Kingaroy went to play at Blackall before the Intrust Super Cup game
>> Minor premiers: Kingaroy on 25 points