Tough is a word that is vastly over used by rugby league writers, however it was on display on Sunday as 17 Easts Tigers players ran on to Piggabeen to pay tribute to their little mate Grant Giess.
Rugby league fans hear plenty of bad news stories about our game; however the moments before this game were a true good news story.
The crowd rose as one and the two teams united in the middle of the field and stood shoulder to shoulder with arms linked to observe a minute’s silence. In this age of text messages and Facebook notifications, it is rare to get a moment of pure silence; but we did on Sunday.
Once the whistle blew, Tweed Heads continued the good form they have displayed at their last home game where they accounted for the Bears 50-4 at Piggabeen.
The Seagulls exposed some weaknesses in their right edge defence of the Tigers with Nat Barnes, Leva Li and Shaun Carney crossed for tries out wide.
The Tigers scored their first try in the 23rd minute, when crisp passing in the backline saw Donald Malone go over in the scoreboard corner. New boy Brentt Warr showed he will slot into the Tigers attack just fine as he initiated the movement with a deft pass to Eddie Tautali on the left.
However, with four minutes to go in the half, Tweed struck back when Ali Grant took a pass from his dummy half before going on his way to score beside the posts. Anderson, who played a prominent hand in the tries to Barnes and Carney, capped off a very good first half when he added the extras to make the halftime score 20-4.
A lot of words have been written and spoken about Grant Giess over the last week, perhaps some of the words that sum him up best are ‘competitive’ with a ‘will to win’. These words also perfectly summed up the Tigers second half performance. As the players ran back onto the field, they could have been forgiven for thinking the game was a Tigers home game as chants of ‘Easts, Easts, Easts’ reverberated around the ground the Tigers responded in kind.
After seven minutes, Eddie Tautali made another sharp break down the left before linking with Malone. Malone almost made it to the line before passing back to fullback Maeli Seve who got his reward for staying alert when he took the pass from Malone and scored. Malone converted and the score was 20-10.
However that was to be Seve’s last involvement as he left the field injured shortly after. His absence forced a reshuffle that saw Tautali move to fullback, Malone come into the centres and the unlikely prospect of reserve hooker Billy Walters going to the left wing.
Walters soon made the changes look completely natural as he got on the end of a sweeping backline play and crossed for the try. Isaac Kaufmann threw a pin-point pass to Jake Foster who caught and passed to Tautali. Tautali did the same thing, and in so doing freed up Walters to go in on the left.
With the Tigers having bought the score back to 20-16 the comeback was most definitely on the cards.
Good lead up work by the Tigers forwards got Tweed Heads rolling backwards and laid the platform for the next try. Warr launched a high kick to the corner where Matt Duffie soared high and grounded the ball magnificently.
From 20-4 down at halftime, the Tigers had taken complete control of the first 20 minutes of the second half and had fought back to tie the scores up at 20-20 with 20 minutes to go.
The Seagulls were not going to just walk away and with 10 minutes to go Barnes got on the end of another pass from Blake Anderson and streaked 40m to score untouched in the corner. The conversion missed and the Tweed scoring was done for the day at 24 points.
The Tigers were inspired though and were not to go down easily. With two minutes to go, Warr made a superb jinking 15m run before linking with Foisa Peni who popped one of his trademark off loads in the tackle that found Tautali. Tautali threw an audacious ‘no look’ pass to Duffie and with the defence converging and the sideline closing in, he realised he could not make the line and put in a centring kick. Michael Kai was awake to Duffie’s thoughts and beat a diving Mark Offerdahl to the ball for the try that would level the scores at 24-24, where they finished.
This was a magnificent game that was largely played in good spirit, and was a wonderful advertisement for all that is great about our game.
For the Tigers; competitiveness, a will to win and, yes, toughness, were definitely the key words for this performance.
TWEED HEADS SEAGULLS 24 (Nathanael Barnes 2, Shaun Carney, Leva Li, Ali Grant tries; Blake Anderson 2 goals) drew with EASTS TIGERS 24 (Maeli Seve, Donald Malone, Michael Kai, Matt Duffie, Billy Walters tries; Donald Malone 2 goals) at Piggabeen Sports.
Tweed Heads Seagulls: 1. Shaun Carney 2. Nathanael Barnes 3. Leva Li 4. Blake Anderson 5. Kalifa Faifai-Loa 6. Ricardo Parata 7. Jamal Fogarty 8. Damian Sironen (c) 9. Sam Meskell 10. Oliver Percy 18. Matt White 12. Dane Clarke 13. Sam Saville 14. Ali Grant 15. Mark Offerdahl 16. Caleb Binge 17. Will Bugden
Easts Tigers: 1. Maeli Seve 2. Donald Malone 3. Eddie Tautali 4. Michael Kai 5. Matt Duffie 6. Isaac Kaufmann 19. Brentt Warr 8. Foisa Peni 9. Tommy Butterfield 10. Liam McDonald 11. Dane Hogan (c) 12. Jake Foster 13. Dean Britt 14. Francis Tualau 15. Matthew Zgrajewski 16. Brenton Horwood 17. Billy Walters