Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
2 days ago
BACK from one of the shortest retirements in history Darren Smith tried all he might, but still couldn?t prevent Easts falling to a startling 48-22 defeat at the hands of Redcliffe on Saturday.
Having played in jersey number 17 in FOGS Cup the previous week, Smith was elevated to a starting spot in the Wizard Cup after just one performance.The former Test utility showed why with his first touch of the ball, executing a classy touch-pass from left-to-right to an unmarked John Tamanika in just the second minute. Referee Michael Wise adjudicated the pass forward, but it fooled a large section of the Langlands Park crowd, with a handful actually rising to their feet and yelling ?Smithy!?. A similar sequence led to a try for Alec Fata in the 13th minute, but by then Redcliffe had already scored twice via Greg Bourke and Mick Roberts.
If Smith was sharp during the opening exchanges, Dolphins hooker Roberts was razor-edged. He schemed constantly for every metre and hit his targets with precision.
When he wasn?t shooting out of dummy-half and creating overlaps, it was fullback Ryan Cullen filling in and scooting to pronounced effect.
The chrome-dome duo were involved in Redcliffe?s first three tries, putting them ahead 16-4 until Smith bobbed up again, switching to the left side and running a great line off a Luke Branighan pass to score.
Branighan was generally more dangerous when kicking than passing however and two perfectly-timed chip kicks sat up for flying fullback Kev Stephensen. Unfortunately on both occasions the ball was spilled soon after.
Former Australian Universities star Stephensen came in as a late replacement for Matt Lockyer and duly impressed, setting the platform for veteran Smith?s second try in the 47th minute. Five minutes later, Donald Malone scooped up another Branighan kick and made it 22-all.
With the contest a match of two as-yet-unbeaten teams, the crowd came alive as the teams reached level-pegging.
Redcliffe eventually broke the deadlock via battering ram Adam Starr, who crashed over under the goalposts and figuratively opened the floodgates.
In quick succession tries came to Grant Flugge, Shane Perry, Adam Fletcher and then finally Chris Fox on the last play of the game.
The stunned Tigers relinquished not only second spot on the ladder, but also the 4BC Cup, contested annually between the two clubs.
REDCLIFFE 48 (Grant Flugge 2, Greg Bourke, Michael Roberts, Nick Emmett, Adam Starr, Shane Perry, Adam Fletcher, Chris Fox tries; Greg Bourke 6 goals) beat EASTS 22 (Darren Smith 2, Donald Malone, Alec Fata tries; Luke Branighan 3 goals).
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