Scrum and Defence lead Eagles to victory at The Nest
The Eagles were dominant from start to finish – winning 57-15 over reigning premiers Royals at The Nest on Saturday. The Eagles scrum and defence laid a platform for attacking rugby, with the Eagles running in 9 tries to 2.
Isaak Fines-Leleiwasa was welcomed back with open arms, as the star halfback provided much-needed flair which was missing in their season opener against Wests. Meanwhile, winger Corey Toole also continued his try-scoring ways, with another double on Saturday.
After a tough day scrummaging against Wests in round one, the Eagles pack was challenged by the coaching staff to aim up. It was clear from the outset that the Eagles front row were up for the challenge, pushing Royals backwards and winning penalties most of the match.
Royals laid the first blow in the grand final rematch, with a penalty goal within the first few minutes of the game. This was short-lived as Isaak Fines worked some of his magic before finding a hole in Royals defence to go in under the posts. Joey Caputo added the extras to give the Eagles a 7-3 lead early in the first half.
Royals broke the Eagles defensive line on a couple of occasions in the first half where they looked certain to score but Isaac Crowe met them with two try-saving tackles to keep the score in the Eagles favour. One of Royals’ line breaks saw them in possession just metres out from the line when young Hooker Connor Jones made a match-defining pilfer to earn a penalty and relieve all pressure.
The Eagles scrum was dominant all day and their second try of the day came off some excellent scrum work, which led to Caputo throwing a beautiful cut-out pass to Toole to put him in. The Eagles lead to 12-3 a quarter of the way through.
A charge down and chase gifted Royals a try under the posts, which brought the Eagles’ lead back to 2 points. However, the rest of the first half belonged to the Eagles where their scrum and defence started to really dominate.
Connor Jones again lit up the game with a barnstorming run up the middle, breaking multiple tackles and keeping his feet which led to the ball being thrown to Kotz who burst past the Royals defensive line and broke a tackle to score his first try of the season. Caputo again added the extras to put the Eagles back up by 9, 19-10.
The tries continued towards the end of the first half with some good work at the scrum and Fines-Leleiwasa breaking through the defence yet again to put Kala over for his first Eagles try. Caputo kicked truly to give the Eagles a 16 point lead, 26 to 10.
Toole’s second try came from an incredible defensive team effort. The Eagles earned the ball back before Fines-Leleiwasa broke the line, and at full speed threw a long ball reminiscent of the 2020 semi-final against the Vikings. This time, the ball landed on the chest of the rapid Corey Toole, who broke through multiple defenders to score another for the Eagles on the stroke of half time.
The Eagles went into the sheds with a 21 point advantage.
The scoring continued in the second half with Dominic Taveo scoring his first try in an Eagles jumper off the back of a great Eagles lineout, followed by a series of offloads. The try increased the Eagles lead to 36-10. Caputo put through his 4th conversion to add 2 more to the Eagles tally.
The Eagles were dominant defensively, forcing the Royals into 7 second-half errors. One of which led to an Eagles penalty which put them right on the Royals try line. A beautiful rolling maul gave Connor Jones a much-deserved try.
The Eagles pressure on both offence and defence was too much for Royals to handle. A short time after the Jones try, a series of penalties for the Eagles on Royals try line, gave the Eagles a penalty try to extend the Eagles lead to 40.
Royals crossed the try line late in the game after receiving their own kick off, giving them some extra points, however, the star of the show Isaak Fines-Leleiwasa put the icing on the Eagles cake. He moved into the centres and broke through just before full time to score in the corner. Caputo converted again and the full-time siren sounded a short time later, where the Eagles celebrated their first win of the season, 57-15.
The dominant win moves the Eagles into the Top 4 as they head on the road for the first time next week, playing the Queanbeyan Whites at Campese Field.
Written by Josh Dunstall
Image from Jayzie Photography