Improving Beasts lash Pirates with six of the best

Photos: SPA Images

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Eastern Suburbs have made it five wins from six in 2012 with a comfortable 52-26 victory over a lacklustre West Harbour at Concord Oval. Having flown under the radar thus far thanks to a trio of seemingly unconvincing victories over Penrith, Gordon and Parramatta, plus a home loss to Warringah, this emphatic six try win – coupled with their television torching of Premiers Eastwood – must now raise their profile to the status of title contenders.

A tit-for-tat start saw the visitors take points on every visit into the opposition red zone thanks to their hosts ill discipline, while the Pirates themselves countered with some trademark ‘off the cuff’ sporadic strikes. They actually led 12-9 after half an hour before the Beasts began to cut loose to lead 23-12, their combinations and confidence growing with every try. And despite switching off enough for Wests to grab a four-try bonus point, the result never looked in doubt. Head coach Mark Bakewell was pleased with the progress his side are making.

“It’s probably the game where we’ve shown the most potential based on what we’re trying to achieve, because it’s actually how we want to play the game,” he reflected. “It’s not complicated what we do, in fact, a lot of the guys were reluctant to take out the complexity of it. But when it works, it’s very, very hard to stop. I want these guys to play good, attractive footy and we’re starting to do that, that’s all that matters. As Phil Mathers said to me before ‘We’re now starting to understand what you want.’ so, it just takes time.”

Two Angus Sinclair penalties sandwiched the first five-pointer of the day from Wests’ lock Tom Patterson, who went over in the corner after 10 minutes thanks to some nice work from his fellow forwards. Easts responded with plenty of possession in their opponents half, and when a nicely worked lineout play released Sinclair into the red zone, the subsequent quest to stifle his progress resulted in penalty number three for the young flyhalf.

Treweek, Shaun passing 280412D-3826.JPG

West Harbour flyhalf Shaun Treweek was a standout on the losing side – Photos: SPA Images

Back came the Pirates and in an all too familiar scenario, they manage to leak easy points at one end while finding the line at will at the other. Gun no.10 Shaun Treweek – thankfully back and firing after a neck injury in 2011 almost brought about a premature end to a promising career – stepped inside an overly keen defender and fed Henry Seavula. The prolific winger tore through some open space up the middle, before finding Treweek again off his shoulder with a clear run to the line.

Treweek converted his own good work to give the home side a 12-9 lead, and it stayed that way until the half-hour mark until their suspect defence opened the door for a reply. Easts’ forwards punched some damaging holes up the middle, and after the Pirates fell off a couple of tackles, Luke Irwin was on hand to cross.

The Beasts were playing the more controlled game now, and were happy to feed off Wests’ ill discipline. And when another sustained bout of pressure five minutes later drew a defender out of the line, Phil Mathers had the opening he was looking for, and he didn’t disappoint. Sinclair’s radar was working well, and the visitors went to the sheds with a 23-12 advantage.

Another Sinclair penalty stretched the lead after the break, before two tries in quick succession effectively ended the match as a contest. Firstly, Heath Tessmann was on hand to scoop up the remnants of a cruelled Easts rolling maul in the 52nd minute to strike. Then the hooker, who was a constant threat with ball in hand and showed good pace and a nifty offload, was able to profit from a brilliant break from halfway by fullback Harry Bennett, to help it down the line towards the waiting Scott Ferris for the bonus point.

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Heath Tessmann has impressed since arriving from Melbourne – Photos: SPA Images

Again, the Pirates showed just how frustrating a side they can be by being completely out of a contest, then suddenly switching on an attacking tap which saw Macquire Tatola pounce with a half-break, before a lovely offload for the predatory Seavula gave him time and space to finish the job.

They added a fourth try to earn a losing bonus point in the very last minute, a wonderful piece of opportunism from Treweek, who chipped over the last man to regather and dive over. But the game was long gone by then, as Richard Stanford and a second from Ferris had already earned Easts the half century, and put them firmly in the comfort zone.

It was an impressive second half display from the Beasts, their mix of forward power and ball-carrying constantly forcing Wests onto the backfoot, while their backline combinations are gelling week by week and showing some exciting signs of greater entertainment to come.

For Wests, it’s the same old story. Electric and dangerous when they choose to flick the switch, but lacking in concentration and discipline defensively. Head coach Daniel Manu still has a lot of work to do to change that stereotype on the evidence of this display.

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EASTERN SUBURBS 52 (Scott Ferris 2, Luke Irwin, Phil Mathers, Heath Tessmann, Richard Stanford tries; Angus Sinclair 5 cons, 4 pens) defeated WEST HARBOUR 26 (Shaun Treweek 2, Tom Patterson, Henry Seavula tries; Shaun Treweek 3 cons) HT 23-12 at Concord Oval

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POST-MATCH ANALYSIS

Eastern Suburbs head coach Mark Bakewell:

“All week we spoke about control, and that was the key word for us because we knew if the game fragmented and broke up really quickly, they can take you apart because they’ve got a lot of speed. We went into the game just wanting to go through them, but with a view to evolving as the game went on. At half-time we felt the plan was working, so we decided to keep doing it and if opportunities came out wide, we’d take them and we did.

“Heath Tessmann’s been great, he’s a fantastic player for us and I’m really happy to have his services up here. I had him last year at the [Melbourne] Rebels and I do a fair bit of time with him on his throwing, so him and I get on well and he’s culturally as good as you get, a really good guy. I’m sort of hoping that next year he gets in a position where he can move forward because at the moment – he’s not being ignored at Melbourne, they’ve got good hookers down there – but if he’s given the chance he could show he’s as good as anyone.

“When we went to Eastwood, the commentators were basically writing us off before the game and it took them fifty minutes to start talking about us. They were saying we’d been playing bad rugby but had won two and lost one, and you just think to yourself ‘Hang on, we’re starting from zero here because its a different game I’m getting these guys to play and we’re still building. What do you expect? To be the All Blacks in four weeks!”

West Harbour head coach Daniel Manu:

“All they did was kept hold of the ball, kept pressure on us and waited for us to make mistakes. We did, and they capitalised. The half-time focus was to make sure we looked up and communicated, not just run around like sheep. But it didn’t work. Once we start getting our heads down, we stop looking up and stop talking, and we stop functioning as a team.

“This whole team is a work in progress. So we’ve just got to keep trying to improve each week, and if we can get the basics going well, then I think we can trouble a lot of teams. At the moment we’re turning over too much first phase ball, we just need to hold onto it and build pressure through phases rather than trying to score tries off the cuff. We do a lot of off the cuff stuff in training, which is great and I don’t want them to lose that creativity, but we need that structure as well. We can score tries with our eyes closed, we’ve just got to make sure that we pick ourselves up and start defending.

“I always thought it would be a two-year project, so whatever improvements we can make this year from last year is a start. It’s disheartening at times, but I enjoy coaching and trying to help guys get better. So, even though we’ve been losing and teams have been putting up good scores against us, I can see improvements each week. Our aim is just to try and keep improving, get our set-pieces right, get our breakdown work right, get our defence right, and then we can be a dangerous team. And then if you’re in the top eight, you’re three games away from a Grand Final!”

Eastern Suburbs captain Pauliasi Taumoepeau:

“The majority of time we were disciplined. But there were some instances where they sort of got loose, and when they tend to play like that, most teams fall into some sort of trance. What we did well today was to acknowledge that that’s what they were doing and keep the discipline in our defensive line, and it was really encouraging to see that.

“We’re trying to play a running game, and as you saw against Eastwood two weeks ago, when you come up against teams like West Harbour, Uni or Eastwood, you tend to play to their game, which means playing defensively. But with ‘Bako’ [Mark Bakewell] coming onboard, whatever we’re good at, that’s what we’re going to try and do, and in both games, Eastwood and again today, it was very forward dominated.

“We’re struggling a little bit at the start of the game, and for the first 10 to 15 minutes of the second half. The first 10 of the second half today was good, but I still feel we need to tighten up the screws on the first part of that first half. That’s something that we’re working on, and if we can control that area of the game, we have dominance in the forwards, we have quick backs, and we feel like we can get some good pay out in terms of the end result.”

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West Harbour: 1. Todd Pearce; 2. Paul Nguamo; 3. Vaughan Lomax; 4. Alfred Pinomi; 5. Tom Patterson; 6. Dan Corry; 7. Tom Andrews; 8. Tom Games (c); 9. Ben Murray; 10. Shaun Treweek; 11. Tito Mua; 12. Nua Alone; 13. Henry Seavula; 14. Macquire Tatola; 15. Oleni Ngungutau

Eastern Suburbs: 1. Clay Brodie; 2. Heath Tessman; 3. Rob McMickan; 4. Will Crutchley; 5. Phil Mathers; 6. Richard Stanford; 7. Jordan Brown; 8. Pauliasi Taumoepeau (c); 9. Luke Irwin; 10. Angus Sinclair; 11. Scott Ferris; 12. Marc Koteczky; 13. Anton LaVin; 14. Toese Vou Siutu; 15. Harry Bennett

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First published by clubrugby.com.au on May 29th, 2012

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