The Easts Tigers put in a determined performance against the Burleigh Bears to keep them scoreless on their way to a 24-2 win.
The Tigers club has been through an unimaginably tough past few weeks and it has been a great achievement for them to be able to unite to achieve as they have on the field.
“(‘I’m) just really proud of these lads and how resilient they are, what they did today is just unbelievable,” Tigers coach Craig Ingebrigtsen said.
The patterns were set early in the game with Tom Butterfield taking an offload from Christian Welch in the Tigers’ first set and scampering for 10m, an early sign that he was to be at his darting, testing best.
For the Bears, Josh Ailaomai was prominent in their opening sets and was to be one of their best all day, along with fellow forwards Louie Fanene, captain Darren Griffiths and centre Jamie Anderson.
Matt Duffie opened the scoring in the seventh minute with a spectacular try when he latched on to a Brentt Warr kick with fingertip control and grounded the ball. The pair are forming a potent partnership and are making a habit of combining for tries for the Tigers.
Big runs by Dean Britt and Liam McDonald ensured the Bears defence were working overtime in the first quarter of the game and Butterfield took advantage of that workload in the 21st minute when he caught the defence napping on the short side and dashed from dummy half for the try.
By the 30-minute mark, Easts were rolling like a well-oiled machine and Eddie Tautali was the next to score.
Shaun Nona is at his best when runs at the defence with the ball in two hands, he keeps the defence guessing and on this occasion they guessed wrong. Two defenders converged on Nona allowing him to put Tautali into a gap on his left and he strolled over untouched.
The Bears tried hard in the first half and finally got some reward when they were awarded a penalty in the 39th minute.
Khan Ahwang slotted the goal to ensure his side would at least take something from the first half – but they were to be their only points of the day.
Francis Tualau showed exactly why astute judges rate him so highly with good involvement in the second half.
He gathered a Bears kick-off and burst upfield for 25m, when in reality he was only entitled to make 10m. He then drew the penalty for the Bears players holding him down in the tackle, Warr kicked for the sideline and suddenly the Tigers were starting a fresh set of six from five metres inside of the Bears half.
In the ensuing set of six, the home side surged down field and in a carbon copy of his first try; Butterfield took the ball from dummy half and darted down the short side to score and take the Tigers to a 20-2 lead.
The Bears had their best chance to score in the 57th minute when Anderson broke down the carpark sideline for 10m and Conner Toia put Ailaomai into a gap and the rampaging prop got to within 15m of the Tigers line.
The Bears then got a penalty and Griffiths almost turned provider when he put Ailaomai in to another gap. However this was not to be the Bears day and rather than Ailaomai strolling over untouched the pass just drifted forward the Bears were denied.
Eddie Tautali finished the scoring for the day in 63rd minute when he benefitted from lovely lead up work from late inclusion Mahe Fonua. The Storm outside back had been powerful and aggressive in his runs all day and on this occasion attracted three defenders to him before offloading to Butterfield who caught and passed to Tautali, who squeezed between the defenders and the corner post to score in front of the scoreboard to take the score to 24-2.
No one could question the effort of the Bears forwards in this game; however they came up against a rampaging Tigers defence. There were several sets, particularly in the second half, where the Tigers turned defence into attack.
The Tigers will want to take the same defence with them to Cairns this weekend as they face a steadily improving Northern Pride in one of the Intrust Super Cups toughest road trips.
Burleigh will return home to Pizzey Park and will be looking for redemption when they face the Townsville Blackhawks on Saturday.
EASTS TIGERS 24 (Eddie Tautali 2, Tommy Butterfield 2, Matt Duffie tries; Shaun Nona 2 goals) def BURLEIGH BEARS 2 (Khan Ahwang goal) at Tapout Energy Stadium, Langlands Park, Stones Corner.
Easts Tigers: 1. Mahe Fonua 2. Maeli Seve 3. Eddie Tautali 4. Michael Kai 5. Matt Duffie 6. Shaun Nona 19. Brentt Warr 8. Christian Welch 9. Tommy Butterfield 10. Liam McDonald 11. Dane Hogan 12. Jake Foster 13. Troy Giess 14. Francis Tualau 15. Matthew Zgrajewski 16. Dean Britt 18. Mat Pitman
Burleigh Bears: 1. Khan Ahwang 2. Corbin Kiernan 3. Jamie Dowling 4. Jamie Anderson 5. Connor Broadhurst 6. Conner Toia 7. Ryley Jacks 20. Mitch Sharp 9. Tom Rowles 10. Josh Ailaomai 11. Tyron Haynes 12. Louie Fanene 13. Darren Griffiths (c) 14. Marino Allen 15. Ayden Lee 16. Shaun Maloney 17. Caleb Morehu