By Marc McGowan
THE race for the Rugby Union Victoria Pillar Cup has suddenly become a grudge match between the two premiership favourites.
Eastern Suburbs pounded a second-strength Westgate Power 99-10 at Holmesglen Reserve on Saturday in an embarrassing display for the competition.
The rivals entered the clash knowing the victor would win the minor premiership, but the previously first-placed Power released all of its best players to their club sides for the qualifying finals of Premier One.
Westgate had already guaranteed itself of a top-two finish and a bye in the qualifying finals this weekend.
It also had no intention of handing over the psychological advantage it gained by defeating Eastern 20-10 in round five in July.
The score was 45-10 by half-time on the weekend and Eastern rattled off another 54 points in the second half while blanking its hapless opposition.
One man who thoroughly enjoyed the encounter was Michael Thompson, who ran in an astounding six tries, while Moses Haukinima and Robbie Lavery both crossed twice.
Endeavour Hills star Lewis Leaumoana’s single try was enough to take him into double figures for the season.
But everyone involved with Eastern is looking forward to meeting the Power again, according to coach Stephen Tia.
The match-up will only happen if both sides make it to the grand final at Olympic Park on Saturday 22 September at noon.
“Our boys are quite peed off … there is not a lot of love lost there,” Tia said.
“They’re just playing silly little games and it shows a lack of respect for my side.”
So will this contest be used as motivation if Eastern does face Westgate again this year?
“Yes, sir – we’ve already spoken about it after the game,” Tia said.
“It was very disappointing and all I could tell my blokes was to play 15 on 15, not to play stupid rugby, learn from it, and play good structured rugby, and the boys did.
“At our best we’ll be hard to stop and everyone knows that – we can’t hide any more.”
Eastern will have a week off before locking horns with the second-highest winner from the qualifying finals at Bob Jane Stadium in Albert Park on Friday 14 September at 8.30pm.
By Marc McGowan