Easts a long way from best despite promising start to QLD Premier Rugby season

By Matt Findlay

A loss to University of Queensland, an epic win over reigning premiers GPS and a narrow victory over Bond University – on paper, Easts’ start to the 2019 Queensland Premier Rugby season looks pretty handy.

But from what he’s seen so far new head coach Moses Rauluni says his Tigers “haven’t even played that well” yet, which looms as a somewhat ominous message to their rival outfits.

Leading into this weekend’s Easter general bye Rauluni described his side’s performances so far in 2019 as “up and down”, saying the fifth-placed Tigers have plenty of improvement in them.

Granted, he said most sides do considering it’s still early days, but with a handful of injured stars to come back into the Tigers’ XV over the course of 2019 it looks like Rauluni’s outfit could well be building to something special.

“We have the potential to build to something, I think,” Rauluni, who took the reins from Ant Connellan after a stint with Souths, said.

“After finishing third last year the boys definitely want to take the next step and make the grand final, hopefully win it too, but it has been an up and down start.

“It’s been pretty promising too though considering we’ve had tough games and we’ve got quite a few new guys who are still building combinations, but we’re working hard on that at training and we’re hopeful our injured guys will be back sooner rather than later too.

“Having Uni first, we just didn’t play very well and they’re a good side but to beat Jeeps the week after was great. Speaking about it with a few guys, they’ve told me it’s been quite a while since we’ve beaten them.

“Then the bye and [Bond University]. We were up by about 20 points in that game and looked really good, but they worked back into it and it was a close win in the end. That one was really promising in patches and the result was good, but it was pretty disappointing in stages and there’s a lot to work on.

“First-up contact and tackles is probably the big thing. We were too high in the contact against [Bond University], we let them get a roll on and they took advantage of that.”

That’s something he said his troops have been working on, and will continue to before their round five showdown with Souths after the general bye.

The Magpies have endured a tough start to the year, after comfortably downing Sunnybank 46-14 in round one Souths have suffered three consecutive losses, to the ladder-leading Brothers (28-8), University of Queensland (54-40) and GPS (24-12).

It doesn’t take a genius to see how tough their last three weeks have been though, which is why Rauluni said “they’ll be much better than their results” might suggest.

“We’ll have to better,  if we do what we did against [Bond University] we could be in for a beating because they have some big boys that carry them forward,” he said.

“We’ll need to work hard to stop them and stay disciplined, they’ll be better than their results and Souths-Easts games are always, always very tough.

“We did play them in a trial and that’s probably the longest we’ve put it together so far, we played well for 60, 70 minutes of that.

“Personally, it’ll be good. I’d love to have a big victory against them but that’ll come down to hard work from the boys, and the crowd should help too.”

It played a massive factor in Easts’ 18-17 victory over Jeeps in round two, that’s for sure, with many going as far as labelling the raucous Tigers’ faithful their 16th man, such was the deafening support.

“I’m actually really glad this one against Souths is at home, hopefully the crowd really pushes the boys on the way they did against Jeeps, it really could be like an extra 10 points for us,” Rauluni said.

In terms of the Tigers’ competition and what he’s seen so far in 2019 Rauluni, like so many others, has been impressed with what Brothers have produced and predicts they’ll continue that form.

Although he did say you have to take early-season form with a grain of salt because “premierships aren’t won in the round [of games]”.

“Early wins are important but we all know it usually comes down to those really big games in the back end of the year,” he said.

“But Brothers have started really strongly and they’ve been building for the last three of four years. We’ve probably got them at the right time actually (in round nine), I think all of their [Australian under-20] reps will be away (at the world championship).”

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