A touch of composure and desperation in defence was the difference between the Mt Gravatt Eagles and St Brendan’s in a pulsating first round clash in the Open 3 Southside Rugby League Brisbane competition.
The Eagles held on for a gutsy 18-16 win and given this was the first round of the competition, both teams served up a thriller in atrocious conditions.
After 10 minutes of play, St Brendan’s clever five-eighth Ryan Lockyer executed a pin-point pass to send centre Hosea Tabua over as he slid into the corner for the first points of the afternoon.
Lockyer’s accurate sideline conversion in the driving rain was an added bonus for the Saints as they hit an early 6-0 lead.
It was an early masterclass from Lockyer that continued when five minutes later, he put up a towering bomb.
Mt Gravatt spilled the pill near their goal line, allowing replacement player Saint Iosofa scoop up the loose ball and dive over to score, stretching the St Brendan's lead out to 12-0.
The Eagles were not going to be denied points before halftime though and halfback Ricky Biles sent in front rower Lenu Kaspar who was too strong close to the line to crash over and score.
The Eagles slickness, and at times patience, near the opposition line proved pivotal and with 47 seconds left on the clock in the first half, second row forward Thomas Scorer shifted up a gear as he went in untouched beside the sticks.
With the scores locked at 12-12 it was anybody’s game as both coaches made passionate speeches at halftime to their respective sides.
Mt Gravatt started the second half on top after applying some early pressure to St Brendan’s, however both sides were struggling to hold onto the ball in the slippery conditions.
With 10 minutes left in the game, the deadlock was finally broken by powerful Mt Gravatt centre Kylie Ludgater who was devastating in attack and was rewarded with a fine solo try under the posts to poke the Eagles noses in front.
St Brendan’s playmakers Lockyer and halfback Petaia Junior Tuifao were outstanding for the visitors as they continued to turn the Eagles around with some astute kicking in general play.
It would pay dividends in the final three minutes of play, as Saints centre Daniel Utai swooped on a Mt Gravatt loose carry to scoop the ball up with one hand and cross amongst the water logged tryline to see the score read 18-16.
A missed conversion by Lockyer from the sideline would prove costly as St Brendan’s trailed by two points in the closing stages.
In a heart-stopping last few minutes of play, the Eagles endured three consecutive sets of six to hold out the St Brendan’s juggernaut with the home side hanging on for a heroic effort in the appalling conditions in front of a great home crowd.
* Mike Simpson is a QRL correspondent covering the Rugby League Brisbane senior competitions