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Easts Tigers notched up an important bonus point against an inexperienced yet spirited Sunshine Coast Stingrays, prevailing 40 – 10 in muddy conditions.
The game started in a relatively timid fashion with both teams possibly cautious about the slippery conditions but as the sun started to shine so did the players.
Easts began to get on top but handling errors and the Stingrays ability at the breakdown were frustrating the home side.
Easts finally put points on the board when Matt Brandon took the ball as first receiver from a scrum close to their line and sliced through the Sunshine Coast defence to score under the posts.
The Sunshine Coast hit back immediately with a well taken penalty by Alex Millington but were put on the back foot after a series of strong forward drives from the home team resulted in the ball being held up twice.
It took a piece of individual brilliance from Chris Mansell to finally get the ball over the line. Sticking a foot to the ball to stop a poor pass from going into touch, Mansell managed to squeeze it between two opposition players and pounce on the ball first to score a try more likely to been seen on a soccer pitch.
As half time loomed the Stingrays hung on as Easts kept threatening but they couldn’t add to the 12 – 3 score line by the time the ref blew the whistle.
Easts looked dangerous from the restart and nearly scored when Blake Enever was held up over the line, the fifth time in the match for the Tigers, and they kept menacing the try line for a sustained period with no reward.
Finally they breached the Stingrays line with Toby White barging over with three defenders on his back. Matt Brandon added the extra points after a short delay caused by the grounds sprinklers spontaneously coming on.
Half way through the second half and it was clear that Easts were absolutely dominating possession and territory but the Sunshine Coast would not lie down and tenaciously fought to give themselves at least a chance.
That chance was soon extinguished when Dom Fuller took advantage of a lack of awareness from the defence to take a quick tap and dart for the line. It appeared that he was going to be taken into touch only for him to manage a miracle pass on his inside for Josh Parry to score. With Brandon adding the extras the score was now 26 – 3 and Easts had their bonus point win in the bag.
True to their spirit all game though, the Stingrays managed to score themselves a consolation prize when Angus Dunham found space on the half way line and sprinted past the Easts cover defenders to score between the posts.
With the game coming to a close and the two teams clearly tiring, Chris Mansell and Matt Brandon both managed to score their second tries for the match and blow the final score out to 40 – 10.
After the game, Stingrays coach John Rangihuna was keeping things in perspective.
“We had six boys making their Premiership debuts and that showed with some of the tries we gave away but we still managed to compete in areas like defence and at the breakdown against undoubtedly a top four team.”
For Easts coach Pat Richards it was about what lay ahead. “We’ve got a few things to improve on in the next few weeks but we’re on the right track.”
By Peter Dowd
20 MAY 2013