It was the Cooma nightmare all over again as the Great Southern Inn Eden Tigers went down to the Bega Roosters in the final minutes of what was an titanic struggle.
After a sensational battle of the forward packs throughout the game, Eden looked poised to hold out the rampaging home side at the Bega Sports Ground.
Billy Michelin, Neil Baker, Leigh Hennessy and Dylan Wheeler were right in the thick of it.
The much vaunted Bega pack were struggling to match the Eden side’s enthusiasm, and the visitors were aptly rewarded for holding possession and their rousing defence by scoring first when Greg Nicholson burst through.
Unfortunately the Baker conversion missed and Eden led 4-nil.
Evergreen Darren Griffin was deputising for the injured Dylan Fletcher at fullback and was solid all match.
Alan Aldridge brought the Tigers fans to their feet with a superb try-saving tackle midway through the half.
The Tigers were completing their sets and putting increased pressure on the Bega side, and as the half time break approached Nicholson slipped a lovely ball to Ben Holding, who showed great enjoyment in scoring a well-earned try.
Andrew Evelyn was rewarded for some good displays in reserve grade and came on as a replacement in his first grade debut.
The score remained at 10-nil up to the half time break. Coach Hennessy was very happy with his charges in the dressing shed. Their handling was much improved completing 15 sets from 21.
The message at half time was simple- dominate the rucks, keep tackling and keep completing.
The second half opened with a brace of penalties before Eden turned over possession and Bega scored their first try to take the score to 10-6 after the Jessop conversion was successful.
Eden struck back in quick time when elusive centre Aldridge scored a good try out wide on the right but the missed conversion left the score 14-6.
We then witnessed a rather bizarre period of play which brought deja vu to those unfortunate Eden supporters who had witnessed the Cooma debacle a couple of week previous.
Bega received a restart when a kick was grounded in goal, then received a penalty for offside, then scored a try, then received a penalty for a flop tackle (which the Bega side had used several times without penalty) then another penalty for a high tackle around a players chest (which had the Eden crowd howling in protest), then scored another try to take the lead 18-14.
In seven straight possessions they had stolen the game.
Coach Hennessy, far from berating his players for allowing the game to escape them, was effusive about the effort of his much younger and smaller charges, and the feeling amongst the team is that Bega will not beat them again this year.
For the Tigers Hennessy and Wheeler, whose perpetual motion game brought back memories of the great Ray Price in his heyday, were standouts.
Nicholson showed his undoubted class, particularly in the first half. Michelin and Baker gave their usual hundred per cent effort, while Joe Stewart again impressed with some slick work.
The side now has a week off which will allow a number of players to return or recover from injury, and will give coach Hennessy ample time to prepare for the match of the year when the Tigers take on premiership favourites Moruya Sharks in Eden. This will be a game no Tigers fan should miss.