Relieved rookie coach thinks Beasties still have more in the tank

By Leesa Ronald. Photo: J.B Photography.

Playing in front of PM Malcolm Turnbull in their first home game since 2016, Easts held on for a 15-12 victory over West Harbour, much to the relief to new coach Pauli Taumoepeau who admits he was “a wreck” leading up to the match.

Despite having led the Easts Colts to the playoffs for four consecutive years from 2014, the gravity of the new role took a toll on Taumoepeau.

“The week before, I just kept asking myself: have I prepared the boys enough?’ said Taumoepeau.

“I didn’t want my coaching to be the reason they didn’t fulfil their potential on the field.”

Luckily for Taumoepeau, his charges were able to withstand a late surge from a physical West Harbour side which saw their 15-0 lead reduced to a mere three points in the dying minutes.

“Our defensive performance made the difference in the end,” he said.

“I thought Rowan Perry was great defensively, and also within our attack systems. He had some big moments and led by example.”

Taumoepeau was also pleased with the impact of new recruit, hooker Connal McInerney.

“We recruited Connal from Canberra and he played one trial game with us but then got called in to the Brumbies squad.

“The Brumbies have been good to us by releasing Connal when he’s not in their match day 23, and he played an enormous role for us and was crucial in our set piece.”

After recording a win and a loss to West Harbour last year, Taumoepeau was grateful the balance tipped in Easts’ favour, securing them their first round one win since 2012.

“They’re a big team, physically, so defensively we had to be big.

“They understand how to get over the ad line, and they’re well coached so we had to be accurate in our systems.

“Their No.8 Kelly Meafu was outstanding with his ball carries. He is so strong and so dynamic, he really had an impact on their forward momentum in the second half.”

That said, Taumoepeau knows the Beasties can do better now their first round nerves have settled.

“We weren’t great in attack. I thought we failed to execute good front foot ball with bad decision making or poor skill execution.

“On one hand it was a bit disappointing we couldn’t be 100% accurate, but it was good we were able to hold onto the win, and I know we can improve on that performance.”