Easts Tigers remain winless for season 2016 after their heartbreaking 28-22 loss to a vastly improved Normanby Hounds in the Premier Grade Division at WJ Scott Park.
The Tigers did not appear to be a side that had not polled any points on the ladder thus far and their brave fight against a tough Normanby side surely has given the club a much needed boost in confidence coming into their next match against Waterford Demons.
The opening 20 minutes at Holland Park in Brisbane’s south remained scoreless due to the exceptional defence by both sides. Powerhouse prop James Anderson, second-rower Tavite Lopeti and halfback Simon Fairburn stood out for the Tigers at home, the terrific trio containing the more physical Hounds pack.
Attack of fumbles
Normanby were their own worst enemies at times, with a glut of lost ball and with the Tigers pouncing on the visitors at any opportunity, it was a fitting result and a sign of respect to the home side that the first points scored would be through a penalty goal slotted by Hounds halfback Jacob Thomas.
But again, the Hounds’ ball possession was their biggest problem and after another loose carry, it was Tigers second-rower Lopeti who picked up the ball to crash over beside the sticks despite the attention of three Hounds defenders.
The Tigers next try was a beauty. Again, Tigers Lopeti burst through the middle into open space and drew the Hounds fullback to offload to explosive fullback Matt Milson who raced 50m to score a fantastic Tigers try.
With Josh Crosby adding the extras, the Tigers had hit the lead at 12-6, but with handling errors and uninspiring defending somehow bizarrely contributing to an exciting end to the first half, neither side was able to put the other to bed.
Sin bin busy
The second-half could not have got off to a more explosive start with the referee dispatching players from both sides to the sin bin for an off-the-ball incident that resulted in players running from all over to join in the fracas.
Tempers were at boiling point throughout the second-half as both sides were finding it frustrating to get the upper hand in what was actually a pretty entertaining match.
Second-rower Dan O’Donnell, hooker Jess Bromwell and fullback Andy Launivao were the pick of the crop for Normanby.
There were, predictably, few attacking plays to marvel at, but Normanby’s next try was textbook as the Hounds backline moved the ball across swiftly to find fullback Luanivao who sliced through the Tigers clutches to go in and score within inches of the sideline.
Halfback Jacob Thomas coolly slotted a superb touchline goal to see the scores levelled at 12-12.
Hounds hit front
After the Hounds had crept back into the Tigers red zone, the visitors were once again on the scoreboard with winger Mitch Chambers giving Hounds coach Dean Mulhall a heart attack by scooting over from dummy half on the last tackle to see the Hounds in front for the first time at 18-12.
However, the niggle and high shots from both sides did not distract the Hounds from playing smart football and second-rower Dan O’Donnell caught the Tigers napping from 5m out to further strengthen the scoreline for the visitors.
The Tigers, down to 12 men, would pay the price for the overlap on the blindside of play, to see Normanby once gain stretch the Tigers outwide and a beautiful cut-out pass by Thomas found winger Matt Hoye to score in the corner.
Tigers claw back
At 28-12 the Tigers were holding their own. The home side were making a late rally and got their act together with some clever play to see replacement forward Maka Taipaleti bulldoze his way over the line to see the Tigers slowly clawing their way back at 28-18.
With the spitefulness of the game threatening to spill over once again, an all-in brawl erupted in the Tigers in-goal area that threatened to dampen the climatic finish.
With 60 seconds on the clock, the Tigers had the final word and a clever chip and chase by half-back Fairburn was beautifully regathered by centre Wilisoni Tilagucagua who magnificently juggled the ball to score a great Tigers consolation try.
Normanby Hounds 28 def Easts Tigers 22