THE Easts Tigers produced a marvellous second half performance to snatch a thrilling come-from-behind victory over the Absolute Enterprises Mackay Cutters today.
On a sweltering day at BB Print Stadium Mackay, the Matt Zgrajewski-inspired Tigers endured a first half onslaught from the home side before their stunning revival saw them snatch victory in the closing stages of the game.
The Cutters ran onto the field in front of the Channel 9 cameras determined to get off to a strong start, and their intensity and focus were evident early with their forward pack making huge inroads up the middle of the Tigers pack.
With the forwards laying the platform, the backs went to work and soon the home side were on the scoreboard.
A freakish effort opened the scoring for Mackay as an attempted rake from the Easts defenders saw the ball spill backwards out of halfback Delayne Ashby’s arms and into the legs of a charging Liam Taylor.
The ball bounced off Taylor’s knee and he followed through with a grubber kick, and as the ball bounced along the ground, he soccer kicked the ball over the head of the Easts fullback and into the in-goal before planting the ball down to bring the crowd to its feet.
The Cutters next try was more conventional as a knock on from Easts gave Mackay great attacking position. With the Tigers goal-line defence stretched thin, the Cutters spread the ball to the right flank, and a perfect flat pass had Matthew Wright steaming onto the ball and muscling his way over to score for a 12-point lead.
Easts finally managed to work themselves into an attacking position, and they didn’t let the opportunity go to waste. Some lightning quick hands saw the ball out to the left wing and it was Leon Ellia- Niukore racing across in the corner on the overlap.
However, it unravelled for Easts a short time later as they were pinged for some over enthusiastic defending deep in their own half and the Cutters had ball in hand in attacking range yet again. The Cutters big men made great gains through the heart of the Tigers defence, and with the try line creeping closer, spread the ball left to find Tyson Martin who scored in the corner with a bulldozing run.
With the momentum on their side, Mackay were looking to heap more pressure on before halftime, and another freak bounce saw them on the board again. A grubber kick from Howard Brown on the last tackle ricocheted off a Tigers defender and into the path of Taylor, who kicked ahead for himself and scored his second try of the game.
Easts were desperate to salvage something with the first half clock winding down. They managed to do just that when Daniel Foster hit Ellia-Niukore out wide on the overlap close to the Cutters line. The winger just managed to put the ball down inside the touchline to give the Tigers some hope at the break, but it was the Cutters heading to the sheds with a comfortable 22-8 lead.
The Tigers headed back out for the second half with a renewed vigour, and their cause was assisted early as consecutive penalties piggybacked them into Cutters territory.
With the Cutters on the back foot, Easts seized their opportunity to get back into the contest, and Shane Neumann provided the points as he burst through several tacklers and forced the ball down.
With the gap closing the Cutters needed a response, and it looked for all money that the home side had put the game to bed when Ashby scored under the posts. But the on field referee sent the decision upstairs to the video referee, and the try was overruled when the video referee picked up an obstruction from the ruck.
After dodging a massive bullet, the Tigers worked their way downfield thanks to the ensuing penalty, and they found points at the end of their set as Foster popped an offload to Jake Foster, who turned the Mackay defence inside out with a neat ball back on his inside for Neumann to score untouched and put the game in the balance at 22-20.
It was the Tigers who had the final throw of the dice as the game reached its climax. Deep in the Cutters red zone Easts threw everything they had at Mackay’s tired defence, and it was Javarn White who became the hero for Easts, racing from dummy half and scything through the Cutters defence to win the game 26-22.
EASTS TIGERS 26 (Leon Ellia-Niukore 2, Shane Neumann 2, Javarn White tries; Brentt Warr 2, Billy Walters goals) def MACKAY CUTTERS 22 (Liam Taylor 2, Matthew Wright, Tyson Martin tries; Liam Taylor 3 goals) at BB Print Stadium Mackay.
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