A Morgan Stewart hat-trick has inspired the Eden Tigers’ reserve grade side to a 32-12 win over the Cooma Stallions, all but ensuring they will enter the finals as minor premiers.
It was an otherwise forgettable day for the club, as the first grade side fell to a 34-10 defeat, and the ladies league-tag side failed to register a point as they wrapped up their season with a 38-0 loss.
With captain-coach Alan Aldridge forced to drop ‘captain’ from his title for the day due to illness, and injuries to other players wreaking havoc on the line-up, the reserves again went into the match without a full complement of players.
It didn’t appear to trouble them early, as they withstood early pressure on their line, before the elusive Stewart found a way through and raced 70 metres to score under the posts.
It only took the Stallions five minutes to strike back, however, with fullback Zane Weston straightening up the attack to cross in the right-hand corner.
Weston had a double soon after despite some conjecture about the grounding, giving Cooma an 8-6 lead.
But centre Tyrone Thomas collected a rebounding Ronald Callaghan kick to score for Eden and ensure they took a 10-8 lead into the sheds.
From there, it was all one way traffic, with Stewart adding his second in typically slippery fashion, before standout lock Elvis Tui got on the end of a move to cross the stripe.
Thomas then picked up his second with an intercept, just minutes after his namesake had forced a Cooma error, before Stewart’s third blew the margin out even further.
The Stallions scored in the dying seconds to restore some respectability, through second-rower Nathan McGregor.
Aldridge said his players stepped up to fill the leadership void.
“We showed a lot of enthusiasm and just enjoyed our football,” he said.
“There were a few injuries and guys missing, but the boys really showed how classy they are.
“Ronny [Callaghan] and Tyrone [Thomas] directed the side really well, and the forwards were just able to play off them.
“They really controlled it with their kicking game, and there was a lot of strong defensive work.”
Having wrapped up the minor premiership, the Tigers will host the major semi-final at the George Brown Memorial Oval in two weeks’ time, with the Candelo-Bemboka Panthers their likely opponent.
The Tigers will be keen to make amends for their recent loss to the Panthers – their only defeat all season – as they go on the hunt for a grand final berth.
The reserves gave the Tigers’ faithful something to cheer about on an otherwise disappointing day at the George Brown Memorial Oval.
Early injuries to Greg Nicholson and Joel Grewar had the first grade Tigers on the back foot, and hooker Steve Russell capitalised with a quick try to put Cooma on the board.
A tight half-hour of play ensued, and after having two tries disallowed in the right-hand corner, the Stallions finally managed a four-pointer in the shadows of halftime to make it 12-0 at the break.
Paul Perkins reached out to extend the margin just after the resumption, before Aaron Piocock put his stamp on the game with a try and a penalty goal.
Eden hit back briefly courtesy of a try to Ian McBain on the back of a Thomas Henderson bust.
Cooma ensured it was only a short break in transmission though, posting two further tries through fullback Jaice Schofield, and a second to Piocock.
The Tigers kept playing until the final whistle, posting the final points via a Mitchell Farrell touchdown, which made the final margin 34-10.
Earlier, the Tigerettes league-tag side fell 38-0 to a Cooma Fillies outfit inspired by Kristy Nichols and Maree Ingram.
Nichols scored two first-half tries, with second stanza four-pointers coming from Meg Bracher, Abby Schofield, Bec Robson, and Monique and Maree Ingram.
The Tigerettes’ season is now over, with a bye next week due to Tathra’s withdrawal from the competition.
Meanwhile, the fourth-placed first grade outfit will look to build momentum in their final clash before the finals against the Tathra Sea Eagles, and the reserves will meet the same opposition next Sunday.
Kick-off in the reserves is at 1pm at the George Brown Memorial Oval, with first grade from 2.30pm.