The Great Southern Inn Eden Tigers showed their best form of the season with a rousing win over competition hotshots Moruya in Eden last Sunday.
In doing so, the Tigers put their rivals for this year’s premiership on notice that they will not be surrendering the title without a fight.
The first half effort by the Tigers to dominate possession and field position with excellent handling and an astute kicking game put the Sharks under continuous pressure.
Billy Michelin, Neil Baker and Greg Nicholson were heavily involved early and led the side forward with powerful running that had the Moruya defence struggling. A couple of early penalties to the Tigers gave them the first opportunity of the match and the enthusiastic local crowd went into raptures when Ben Holding stormed across for the first try to give Eden a 4-0 lead.
From the restart of play the Tigers worked play downfield, and an astute Smith grubber kick was touched by the enemy and the Tigers hooker Greg Nicholson scored from the ensuing play to extend the lead to 8-0.
The Tigers were playing a solid style of footy and continued to complete their sets, putting enormous pressure on the Moruya defence, which was also of a very high standard.
After four consecutive sets in possession the Tigers scored again when Baker burst onto the ball drawing defenders and slipped a beautiful pass to a flying Dylan Fletcher who scored a great try under the posts. His conversion took the Tigers to a 14-0 lead.
The game took a drastic change after the resumption with The Moruya side controlling possession, and with the help of three penalties in quick succession they were right on the attack when Aaron Brierley slipped what appeared to be a forward pass to brother Kane who was awarded the try.
Aaron’s conversion brought the Sharks back into the match at 14-6. The score remained at that state up to the half time break.
Captain coach Leigh Hennessy was satisfied with his side’s first-half performance with 18 sets from 22 possessions completed and had executed the game plan effectively. He urged them to continue to work hard in defence and respect possession.
With the coach’s words still ringing in their ears, the Tigers resumed after the break and promptly turned the ball over on the first tackle, which saw Moruya’s Justin Bell score after an astute Brierley kick through.
The Brierley conversion brought the sharks to within two points of the Eden side at 14-12. Within a couple of minutes the Moruya side scored again and the conversion saw them take the lead for the first time in the match 18-14.
The Tigers were not to be denied though, and after withstanding some persistent attacking raids, Holding crashed through the defence for his second touchdown.
The conversion put the Tigers back in front, 20-18 and a tight finish looked likely.
Both sides were holding nothing back in attack or defence, but when Eden gained possession after a Moruya handling error the ball went through the hands to a wide-running Ian Smith who crossed for the try. With 15 minutes remaining the Tigers led 26-18.
The clock was ticking down and the Sharks threw everything at the Tigers, but inspired defence kept them at bay.
Then, in the last play of the match, Aaron Brierley caught the defence napping with a kick through on the first tackle and again Kane Brierley was on the spot to score the last try.
The Tigers had held on to win a very entertaining match 26-24, much to the rapture of the local fans.
The Moruya side were gallant in defeat and it would be a brave person who would doubt that these two sides will meet again in the finals series.
Hennessy had a very good game in a solid team performance, with Michelin, Baker, Holding, Nicholson and Fletcher all very good.
Smith and McBain did a lot of work in attack and defence while Joe Stewart showed his wiles with some good ball play.
Next week we travel to Tathra to take on the rapidly improving Sea Eagles.