Moments after Christian Welch crashed over for a try in the corner a chant of “Easts, Easts, Easts” erupted around Suzuki Stadium as the crowd sensed victory over the Townsville Blackhawks, the Cup heavyweights who the Tigers had never before beaten.
Townsville scored the final points of the match on Sunday, a 78th minute try to centre Delouise Hoeter, to take the final score to 29-20 but the Tigers had clinched the seemingly inconceivable win.
The Tigers opened the scoring with a try to Billy Walters in the seventh minute. He ran to the left and while the Blackhawks slid and shut down his options out wide they forgot to pay enough attention to the man with the ball and he barged his way over. Walters was at it again in the 21st minute and along with a conversion he had given the Tigers a 10-0.
The Blackhawks had been struggling to get into the game in the first 25 minutes with the big Tigers pack out-muscling them. At the 32nd minute Tigers forward Dean Britt was sent to the sin bin and the Blackhawks used the numerical advantage well to stretch the Tigers on the edges.
Jonothan Reuben (in the 33rd minute) received a perfectly timed cut-out pass from the returning Matt Bowen and then Delouise Hoeter (in the 36th minute) took a flick pass from Lona Kaifoto, which, along with a conversion from Laybutt, took the halftime score to 10-10.
The teams went try for try in the second half with Dane Chang scoring for the Tigers, Moses Pangai then replied for the Blackhawks before Britt, who had been like a man on a mission since his return from the sin bin, and Welch scored for the Tigers.
Walters slotted a penalty and Brodie Croft, showing maturity beyond his years for a man in only his second match at this level, calmly added a drop goal to stretch the Tigers lead to 29-16. Delouise Hoeter scored his second try late in the game but it was all too late for a Blackhawks side that were beaten by a Tigers side than outclassed them in all aspects of the game.
Welch and Guy Hamilton were the Tigers best on the day while for the Blackhawks Matt Bowen showed promising signs in his first game back; setting up three of their four tries, Rhyse Martin was strong in both attack and defence and very nearly denied Chang his try with a smashing cover tackle.
The Tigers face an equally tough test next weekend when they travel to Burleigh to take on a Bears side who will be angry after losing to the Dolphins. The Blackhawks head home and will welcome a Devils outfit who will be flying high after defeating Tweed Heads 46-18.
EASTS TIGERS 29 (Billy Walters 2, Dane Chang, Matthew White, Christian Welch tries; Billy Walters 4 goals; Brodie Croft field goal) def TOWNSVILLE BLACKHAWKS 20 (Delouise Hoeter 2, Jonathon Reuben, Moses Pangai tries; Kyle Laybutt 2 goals) at Suzuki Stadium, Langlands Park.