By Marc McGowan
A LACK of enthusiasm and the pressure of high expectations have been blamed for Eastern Suburbs’ 10-5 loss to the Harlequin Souths at Sparks Reserve in Box Hill on Saturday.
The round four Pillar Cup rugby union encounter was originally scheduled for Friday night at Frog Hollow Reserve, but the torrential rain during the week prevented the lights at the ground from being upgraded and the fixture had to be switched.
Box Hill boasts 10 players in the Eastern side, so the transfer put the representative team in front of a parochial home crowd.
It did not take long for the fans to be silenced, however, with Souths captain Aleki Toleafoa slotting through a penalty goal to open the scoring.
The rampaging Lewis Leaumoana, who entered the battle with back-to-back two-try games, hit back by crossing for Eastern Suburbs’ first to snatch a 5-3 lead, which Michael Thompson was unable to convert on the extra point attempt.
In the only match Leaumoana, who was named the under-19 state player of the year in 2006, failed to score – in week one – Easts coach Stephen Tia still singled him out for praise.
The star youngster could not stop Harlequin from grabbing back the lead just before the main break, when firstly Dion Hita scored before Toleafoa kicked the ball through the uprights.
It gave Souths a 10-5 advantage and proved to be the final points of the day, with Tia explaining that the second half was “more like a chess match than a rugby match”.
Despite only going down by a slender margin, Tia was disappointed with his squad’s output.
“I’m quite proud of the way we stuck with it, but we lacked a bit of enthusiasm,” he said.
“That happens, and to lose 10-5 and play badly shows we have a lot of improvement in us.
“But the boys and I spoke and we all agree that it was unacceptable.”
Eastern Suburbs, which sits in third position, will be looking to end its two-game losing streak when it faces the unbeaten Westgate Power at Griff Hunt Reserve at 2.45pm on Sunday.
By Marc McGowan