Pilz kicks Easts to Australian Club Championship
21 March – Hospital Cup – by Brendan Hertel
A penalty after the 80th minute from scrumhalf Eli Pilz has secured the Easts Tigers their second ever Australian Club Championship, claiming a 14-13 win over 2020 Shute Shield Premiers Gordon at David Wilson Field.
In front of a packed out Tigerland crowd, Pilz proved to be the difference on the day, slotting three penalty kicks in humid conditions.
The visitors were first to score, with inside centre Ellis Abrahams charging down a Shane Kennedy kick to regather the ball and score in the second minute of play. The conversion was unsuccessful leaving Gordon ahead 5-nil.
Pilz lamented an early penalty attempt which bounced off the post, but stepped up to slot a kick from 40 metres out to put Easts on the board, 5-3, in the 20th minute.
Gordon scored off a line-out driving maul through Jordan Ieremia just before half-time to give Gordon a 10-3 lead heading into the break.
Easts were first to strike in the second half with Pilz slotting his second penalty in the 43rd minute after the visitors conceded a penalty for not releasing in front of their posts.
It wasn’t until the 55th minute that the Tigers crossed for their one-and-only try of the match, with Pilz darting from the base of the ruck to link with flyhalf Aidan Toua, who dummied to his outside wing before putting on some footwork and crashing through two defenders to score in the left-hand corner. Pilz missed the conversion leaving the home-side ahead for the first time in the match 11-10.
Gordon regained the lead in 71st minute, with flyhalf Reece MacDonald slotting a penalty to edge ahead 13-11. The Stags came close to scoring just minutes later, but some brilliant scramble defence from the home-side closed down the Highlanders opportunities.
The Tigers pinned Gordon in their own half in the closing minutes of the match and went to work picking-and-driving close to the visitors try line. The visitors were eventually penalised at the ruck for going off their feet, and Pilz stepped up to slot the winning penalty next to the uprights to secure a 14-13 win for Easts, sending the Tigers crowd into raptures.
“It’s a great start to the season for us,” said Easts captain Tom Milosevic.
“Gordon are a good side and they pushed us for the full game, we expected that, but they came up ready to play and we had to fight for the win.
“We’re confident heading into 2021. If that is a sign of things to come for the year ahead, I’m excited and I’d encourage everyone to get out and support your local club, buy that Stan membership and let’s get around grassroots Rugby.”
Gordon lock Brendan Mitchell, who previously played in Premier Rugby for Sunnybank, said: “It was good to be back in Brisbane and playing at Tigerland, the crowd certainly gave it to us, I haven’t missed that, but it was a tough game and both teams fought until the final minute.
“Both competitions, Premier Rugby and Shute Shield, are on level pegging. There was big hits, it was physical and fast, it bodes well for both competitions.
“Club Rugby is only going to grow from here, it was great to be the first club Rugby game on Stan and I’m sure things will only get better.”
Easts will begin their Hospital Challenge Cup title defence on April 10, as they host Sunnybank in Round 1 of the 2021 season with the Rick Tyrrell Cup on the line.
Easts 14 (Aidan Toua try; Eli Pilz 3 pen) def Gordon 13 (Ellis Abrahams, Jordan Ieremia tries; Reece MacDonald pen)