Eastern Rhinos battle back to beat Skolars

Brendan Cook and Andy Windrige tackle

Brendan Cook and Andy Windrige tackle - Credit: Contributed

Eastern Rhinos secured the points with a Dan Whiteman try two minutes from full-time in an exciting game that saw the lead change hands several times.

Dan Whiteman seeks space

Dan Whiteman seeks space - Credit: Contributed

Despite the heat and hard ground both sides maintained an incredible work rate for the full 80 minutes with exciting breaks and uncompromising defence.

The Rhinos made the best possible start after only three minutes, with George O’Connor breaking through the Skolars’ defence from a quick play of the ball 20 metres out, Peter LeMarquand converting for an early six point lead.

However, in minutes Skolars levelled the scores with Nicholas Agbo converting his own try having caught the Rhinos flat footed and slipping through the defence to touch down under the posts.

And from the restart the Skolars hit the Rhinos with a fast attacking set, Jimmy Morgan crossing the line and Agbo converting for a 12-6 lead after just 10 minutes.

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The highly mobile Skolars backs continued to test the Rhinos defence throughout the first half in contrast to the Rhinos’ big forwards who consistently made good yards with a high completion rate on their tackle sets.

The sides continued to cancel each other out until minutes before half time when Andrew Windridge showed great determination in forcing his way over the line against the posts to give LeMarquand an easy conversion to level the scores at 12.

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From the restart Skolars conceded a penalty 40 metres out. The referee indicated that the next time the ball went dead would be half-time so Whiteman stepped up and coolly slotted home the penalty kick for a slender 14-12 half time lead.

The Rhinos carried their momentum into the second and from a penalty Whiteman and Brendan Cook combined to break through the centre of the Skolars’ defence before shipping the ball wide to Alex Gardiner and then Eddie Smith on the wing to score in the corner and extend the Rhinos lead to 18-12. But at the end of the third quarter Skolars hit back with two converted tries of their own to take a 24-18 lead.

The Rhinos stuck to their game plan and were rewarded when Windridge broke free from his tacklers to set Eddie Smith clear to touchdown from 40 metres and with only two points in it set up a tense finale.

And with only two minutes left it was the Rhinos who secured the all important points.

LeMarquand powered his way through the Skolars defence to set up Alex Gardiner who was held two metres from the line but from a quick play of the ball a determined Whiteman twisted and turned away from his tacklers to touch down in the corner.

LeMarquand converted a difficult kick to make it a 28-24 lead.

In the final two minutes Skolars threw everything at the Rhinos but their defence stood firm to claim an hard-fought victory.

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