Second half rally sees Beasties home over Eastwood

Photo: SPA Images

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My apologies to Eastern Suburbs flyhalf Ben Ward. The wonders of City Rail conspired to cause me to miss the opening 15 minutes of this game and his try in the process. I’m sure it was a classic!

What I do know is that after 20 minutes, Easts increased their lead and with very little resistance. From their own scrum feed on the edge of the twenty-two, quick ball saw Pat Smith burst through a rather large gap and touch down under the posts giving GavinDe Bartolo an easy two points.

Eastwood were more than holding their own at the breakdown thanks to Hugh Perrett and Josh Dunning. Poor work at the lineout however, was wasting the good field position they were creating.

They almost paid for it by coughing up the ball to Smith, whose clever chip kick over the onrushing defensive line was a couple of fingertips away from being gathered in by DeBartolo with the line begging.

As the Beasties piled forward in numbers, their desire to keep possession proved a little too eager for the referee and their fine work was undone by a penalty. Skipper Tom Egan could not contain his frustration, and berated his troops for their ill discipline with a ‘How many times?’ warning.

Their profligacy came back to bite them with a double-strike from the Woodies in the 10 minutes leading up to half-time.

A beautifully placed kick from Gavin Duncan forced Easts to defend their tryline from 10 metres out. Up until that point, the Beasties had dominated the lineout with Will Crutchley and Lee Morley stealing at will, but this time an overthrow missed everyone and landed into the grateful arms of Hugh Perrett, who dived for the line. Duncan added the extras and the scoreboard showed a slender 12-10 advantage for the home side.

Egan, Tom runs 040409D-0470.JPG

Easts captain Tom Egan was frustrated with his side’s 1st half discipline – Photo: SPA Images

A galvanised Eastwood took their game up a notch and piled forward at every opportunity, sensing hesitation in their opponents play, and their pressure told with a fine try right on the buzzer.

Scrum-half Mike Hand spread the play to the right and the ball found itself in the hands of deceptively explosive full-back John Grant. The youngster stepped inside two tackles before offloading to Sione Piukala, who cut inside and headed for the line. Pulled down just metres short, Piukala recycled the ball into a swarm of team mates who pushed him forward and he somehow emerged from the ensuing melee with a twist and a stretch to touch down in front of the perfectly positioned referee.

The weather had now turned from a warm bask in the sun to a chilly endurance and the swirling breeze conspired to push Duncan’s attempted conversion wide. The game had swung towards the visitors but the halfway break would prove to have an ill-timed effect on the momentum they had built up. HT 12-15

Easts burst out of the blocks in the second half determined to redress the balance and re-assert their authority. It took them all of three minutes.

In an almost carbon copy of the try before the break, Pat Smith carried the ball a few metres short from where a flood of support arrived to drive them over. The pile of bodies cleared slowly to reveal Junior Puroku smiling broadly with the pill successfully pressed to the floor.

A clinical conversion from the angle by DeBartolo restored Easts lead and their grip on the match.

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Eastwood skipper Hugh Perrett never stopped working for the visitors – Photo: SPA Images

Eastwood clung on with some stout defending but the Beasties were attacking in waves now, and it was only a matter of time before they took the money once more. From another line-out win, the ball was gathered in and the rolling maul that ensued gained enough momentum to propel backrower Dan Hopkins over. DeBartolo couldn’t match his prior achievement from the same position, and hostilities resumed at 24-15 to the home side.

The battle at the breakdown was being won by the boys in dark blue. Their aggressive counter-rucking was creating a lot of turnover ball, which was complemented by the reliable DeBartolo’s accuracy with the boot.

With 15 minutes to go, Easts again attacked the flanks where Pat Smith, Tom Azar and Anton La Vin were linking well and constantly creating overlaps. One such foray forced another penalty, which was duly dispatched by points machine DeBartolo.

Eastwood were somewhat shell-shocked but still trying to play their way out of their predicament. Lively no.9 Hand was doing his best to get quick ball to his backs but they simply had no space to work with, and were confronted by a wall of Beasts that were smashing them back at every opportunity.

Gallant captain Hugh Perrett – who put in a tireless shift to no avail – tried to cajole his deflated charges as they watched De Bartolo’s  latest missile dissect the upright and turn the screw a little tighter. He still felt there was time left to turn it around, and applauded their efforts saying “It’s just a few silly mistakes that are costing us – keep going.”

Unfortunately, it was another one of those mistakes that allowed Easts to drive the nail well and truly into the coffin. The Woodies finding some possession in the rarefied atmosphere of the opposition twenty-two, only for the final pass to be pushed and gleefully intercepted by a predatory DeBartolo.

Credit must be given to the chasing John Grant who kept his runaway prey honest, but he ran out of grass before the ball was touched to the floor. The extras were predictably added and a haul of 25 unanswered points after the break had granted Easts with a solid win and the all important bonus point.

Eastwood can only reflect on another pointless second half to match last week’s capitulation at home to Manly. But there’s some good football in this side, and when they do start to produce it for 80 minutes they’ll give this competition a shake.

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Eastern Suburbs 37 (Ben Hopkins, Ben Ward, Pat Smith, Junior Puroku, Gavin DeBartolo tries; Gavin DeBartolo 3 cons, 2 pens) defeated Eastwood 15 (Hugh Perrett, Sione Piukala tries; Gavin Duncan con, pen) at Woollahra Oval. HT: Eastwood 12-15

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First published by www.clubrugby.com.au on April 6th, 2009

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