Two teams who were round one losers met at Suzuki Stadium in unseasonably warm weather on Sunday to chase their first competition points of the season and it was a clunky Easts Tigers outfit who got the win 26-24.
Anyone who is celebrating the Tigers win must make sure they thank Scott Drinkwater, because the Storm contracted former Australian School boy was without a doubt the difference between the two teams.
For the Cutters Mitch Dunn, a late inclusion in the starting 13 after Nick Hynes was ruled out with an injury, Jardine Bobongie and Johnny Faletagoa’I were all very good. Former Courier Mail medal winner Josh Chudleigh continues his return from a horror ACL injury and is showing signs that he is still the player he was pre-injury.
The Tigers halves of Brayden Torpy and Billy Walters played a very professional game. Torpy controlling his team and guiding them round the field while Walters kicking game was superb.
It was the Cutters who opened the scoring in the 4th minute when a lovely pass from Bobongie and quick hands from Yamba Bowie and Nathan Saumalu created just enough space for John Wilshire to dive over in the scoreboard corner. Laybutt missed the difficult wide conversion and the Cutters had the early 4-0 lead.
They were in again 10 minutes later when Dunn showed a potent combination of speed and footwork in a big man, to step around a grasping Chris Ostwald and score beside the sticks. Laybutt did not miss the conversion this time and took the Cutters out to a 10-0 lead.
It took 23 minutes for the Tigers, who had looked a little hesitant in attack early, to find their feet but when they did it was worth the wait. New boy Brett Greinke slipped a lovely off load to Scott Drinkwater who straightened the attack and went to the line before flicking the ball to Conor Carey. Carey was simply to big and strong for the Cutters, taking three defenders over the line with him as he scored.
The Tigers scored the try of the game in the 36th minute when Jarrod McInally finished a sweeping downfield move to score in the can bar corner. Drinkwater started the move 80m down field and Linc Port and Torpy continued the movement before the final pass to McInally. The conversion was waved away, and the teams went to the break locked at 10 all.
The second half was an all action affair with each team scoring three tries and the lead changing hands multiple times. Jarred Tuite opened the scoring in the 43rd minute when Chris Ostwald made up for his earlier error in defence by holding the Cutters defence at bay and creating space for Tuite. Torpy slotted the conversion and, for the first time in the game, the Tigers led, 16-10.
In the 48th minute Kyle Laybutt scored for the Cutters after nice lead by work by Bobongie had the Tigers defence reeling. Laybutt took the ball from dummy half and dashed between two disorganised defenders to score. His conversion tied the scores up again at 16-16.
The Cutters then took back the lead in the 51st minute when Nathan Saumalu dotted down in the corner to finish off a spectacular backline move that included Chudleigh, Dunn and Bowie. Crucially Laybutt missed another wide conversion to leave the score at 20-16.
The seesawing nature of the game continued in the 56th minute when Jack Svendsen ran a sublime line off Scott Drinkwater, hit the hole hard and fast and scored without a hand being laid on him. Torpy landed the conversion and the Cutters short lived lead was gone as the Tigers went to 22-20.
The Tigers scored one more try, in the 72nd minute, and fittingly it went to Scott Drinkwater when he combined with Ostwald for a blindside trick play that completely fooled the defence to take the score to 26-20.
This cliff-hanger was not done though, with big Johnny Faletagoa’I brilliantly grounding a Yamba Bowie kick to score in the corner in the 79th minute. Unfortunately for Cutters fans the sideline conversion was waved away and the Tigers held on for the 26-24 win.
Round three sees both teams home for Saturday night home games, the Tigers in what will be an absolute barnstormer against the Ipswich Jets and the Cutters hosting fellow Cowboys feeder team the CQ Capras.