A resilient Eastwood side earned a deserving victory at Woollahra Oval yesterday in what was sure to be an early taste of Shute Shield Finals rugby in 2021.
The Woodies travelled to the Eastern Suburbs following a heart-breaking loss to Sydney University in Round Three. However, Ben Batger’s men seemingly drew additional motivation from that tough defeat, as they took an early advantage over the Beasties on route to a 42-28 victory.
The win takes Eastwood to outright third on the ladder, trailing the competitions two remaining undefeated sides, Norths and the Students. With tough matchups against Warringah and Norths before heading into their Round Seven bye, the Woodies will be hoping to continue this momentum and remain towards the top of the competition ladder.
Eastwood jumped out of the blocks early at Woollahra Oval, playing most of the opening minutes parked in the Easts half.
Consequently, it was only inevitable that points would ensue, with young Waratahs Tane Edmed and Mark Nawaqanitawase displaying their Super Rugby connection to combine for the opening try.
With Easts looking sluggish in the opening phases, they were quickly on the backfoot again only five minutes later. After consistent penalties allowed the Woodies to march down the field via the brilliant boot of Edmed, a perfectly worked lineout set piece saw hooker Ed Craig deliver a silky inside pass to winger Lachlan Shelley, who waltzed over untouched and took the Eastwood lead to 14-0.
However, this try only sparked the Eastern Suburbs side to life, answering immediately off the restart after a brilliant take from breakaway James Donato caught the Woodies team napping. After a quick shift of hands and with Eastwood players scrambling back to cover, tough lock Jeremy Williams ran a beautiful line to glide through for the home sides first.
After Easts breakaway Charlie Gamble crossed for two tries by the 26th-minute, it seemed the home side had well and truly snatched ascendency in the contest.
A pair of penalties goals from the ever-reliable boot of Tane Edmed kept the visitors in touch, but it was the Beasties who would have the final say in the half.
With only moments left in the opening forty, quick hands from a midfield lineout gifted Easts winger Clay Uyen acres of space, before some exceptional offloads and support play from Daniel Donato and Jack Grant allowed centre Nick Jooste to take the Beasties lead to 28-20 at half time.
The second half was one dominated by a determined and relentless Woodies outfit, with the visitors not conceding any points for the remaining forty-minutes.
Comparatively, Eastwood slowly chipped away at the Beasties lead and by the 60th-minute had regained a slender 30-28 advantage thanks to a double from Michael Icely.
With the match on the line, Easts just lacked critical execution in possession, with dropped ball and costly penalties denying the home side any real attacking threat.
The visitors lead was extended in the 72nd-minute, after an excellently worked Eastwood rolling maul took full advantage of the tiring Easts pack, with Max Stewart the beneficiary of the perfectly executed set piece.
With Michael Icely securing his hat-trick in the final stages of the game, the epic encounter between these two great Clubs finished with Eastwood victorious 42-28.
The Beasties will be hoping to bounce back positively next weekend, as they travel to Orange to host the Two Blues.
Eastwood will now return to fortress T G Millner to face an impressive Warringah outfit in a match likely to define both sides early season form.
In other result around the grounds yesterday, Sydney Uni outclassed Penrith 50-0, Randwick were strong away from home against the Wildfires 38-8, Norths got the better of Souths 23-13, Warringah piled on the points against West Harbour 47-24 and Manly defeated an improved Two Blues side 38-27.
Tries: Gamble 2, Williams, Jooste
Cons: Saifoloi 4
Tries: Icely 3, Nawaqanitawase, Shelley, Stewart
Cons: Edmed 3
Pens: Edmed 2
Round Four Results:
Penrith 0 – 50 Sydney Uni
Eastern Suburbs 28 – 42 Eastwood
Wildfires 8 – 38 Randwick
Norths 23 – 13 Souths
Warringah 47 – 24 West Harbour
Manly 38 – 27 Two Blues