Second half rally sees Beasties home over Eastwood
Photo: SPA Images
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 22, quick ball saw Pat Smith burst through a rather large gap and touch down under the posts, giving Gavin DeBartolo 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.
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 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 was joined by a swarm of team mates who drove 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 a warm bask in the sun into a chilly endurance, and the suddenly swirling breeze around Woollahra Oval conspired to push Duncan’s attempted conversion wide. The game had swung towards the visitors, but the half-time break would prove to have an ill-timed effect on the momentum they had built up, and their 15-12 lead.
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 by their opponents 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 replacement 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.
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 lineout win, the ball was gathered in and the rolling maul that ensued gained enough momentum to propel backrower Ben 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 tricolour jerseys. 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 DeBartolo’s latest missile dissect the uprights to 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 22, 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 Easts fullback could get the ball to the floor. The extras were predictably added, and a haul of 25 unanswered points after the break had granted Easts 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.
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: 12-15
Eastern Suburbs: 1. Mike Ross; 2. Sam Zlatevski;3. Rob MicMickan; 4. Will Crutchley; 5. Lee Morley; 6. Ed Brenac; 7. Ben Hopkins; 8. Tom Egan (c); 9. Luke Irwin; 10. Ben Ward; 11. Pat Smith; 12. Tom Azar; 13. Anton La Vin; 14. Gavin DeBartolo; 15. Pat Dellitt – Coaches: Cox/Alwinckle
Eastwood: 1. Simon Norris; 2. Chris Hill; 3. Barry Fa’amuasili; 4. Josh Dunning; 5. Phil Mathers; 6. Tom Alexander; 7. Hugh Perrett (c); 8. Locky McCaffrey; 9. Mike Hand; 10. Gavin Duncan; 11. Sione Piukala; 12. Chris Donnelly; 13. Rowan Kellam; 14. Filipo Toala; 15. John Grant – Coaches: Melrose/Manenti
First published by clubrugby.com.au on April 6th, 2009