Led by rookie forwards Shane Gilham and John Puna; and bolstered by the return of Brodie Croft, the Tigers defeated a gallant Northern Pride 26-24 at Suzuki Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
In the end, it was a penalty goal taken by Croft in the 39th minute of the game that proved the difference.
Both teams opened the game with exemplary first sets – but it was the Tigers who opened the scoring in the eighth minute when Matt Zgrajewski took an inside pass from Slade Griffin and crashed over beside the posts.
The Pride were always in the game however, with a great kicking game from their halves. Brayden Torpy showed why he is one of the most highly-rated young halves in the competition, controlling the Pride sets and ensuring they almost always had the right option on the last tackle.
Jordan Biondi-Odo was another strong performer for the visitors and a sharp run from dummy half, great kick back across the ruck – which the Tigers spilled – was cleaned up by Sheldon Powe-Hobbs to score their first points.
The Pride were in again a few minutes later when Coen Hess, who has NRL written all over him, linked with Linc Port. Port threw a lovely cut-out pass to beat the Tigers defence and find an unmarked Justin Castellaro who ran over.
However, the Tigers found another gear in the last 10 minutes of the half and amassed the points that would ultimately win them the game.
First Croft did all the hard work before popping a pass to Javarn White who was trailing on the inside as all good fullbacks do and went in to score.
In the ensuing set, Brentt Warr ran at the line with ball in hand and in a powerful 15m burst where he stepped off both feet, he left the Pride defence grasping at air to score.
Croft had converted all of the tries and landed the telling 39th minute penalty to take the score to 20-12 at halftime.
The Pride came out from the sheds committed to start on the front foot. Port made a great link with Javid Bowen and the two of them had made 70m before the 1st tackle. While no points came from that movement; the pattern for the rest of the afternoon was set.
Skipper Ryan Ghietti scored next for Pride, and with Khan Ahwang’s conversion, they trailed 20-18 and the game was there for the taking.
The next Pride try was all down to some Port genius. With the attack static, no bodies in motion and no runners coming on to the ball; he took a pass from Ghietti, stabbed in a grubber at the post and accelerated from 0 to 100 in a split second to score the try under the attention of a desperate Tigers defence.
Pride had the lead for the first time in the game and looked like it might take them to the victory.
However, the Tigers managed to get some space on the edge, as they had been trying all day.
Croft linked with Jacob Paul in the centres who found the hard-running second rower Jake Foster, and his quick pass to Leon Ellia-Niukore put him over to level the scores. Croft was successful with the sideline conversion to steal the win.
EASTS TIGERS 26 (Matthew Zgrajewski, Javarn White, Brentt Warr, Leon Ellia-Niukore tries; Brodie Croft 5 goals) def NORTHERN PRIDE 24 (Sheldon Powe-Hobbs, Justin Castellaro, Ryan Ghietti, Linc Port tries; Khan Ahwang 4 goals) at Suzuki Stadium, Langlands Park.