Round 3 of the Allsports Physiotherapy Hospital Challenge Cup saw competition points on offer for the first time in 2020, with four tightly contested games kicking off the season proper.
Here’s ‘five things we learned’ from all the action.
1. Tiger’s front-row fortressIn a clash which could very well been repeated come finals time, it was the Easts forward pack who stole the show in the side’s 31-24 win over defending premiers the University of Queensland.
The Tigers were dominant at scrum time, with frontrowers George Francis, Richie Asiata and Rhys van Nek seizing set-piece ascendancy to lay the platform for the eight-point win.
Skipper Ben Mowen scored a double in the victory, while scrumhalf Eli Pilz put in a strong performance in his return from concussion, collecting 16-points of his own.
The win was made even sweeter for the Tigers after last year’s minor semi-final, when the Heavies routed the side 51-12 on their way to the premiership.
Despite the loss, UQ unearthed another star for the future, with highly touted 18-year-old Mac Grealy making his Premier Grade debut at fullback.
The Toowoomba product scored a double for the Students, chiming in with a number of classy touches to prove just why he is held in such high regard in Queensland Rugby.
Uni will face Sunnybank next round, while the Tigers host GPS in a fixture which could potentially decide the minor premiership come the end of the season.
2. Third’s the wordFor the second consecutive week, Mitch Third’s boot kicked Bond University to victory in the final minutes, with the flyhalf slotting another late penalty to down Sunnybank 44-43 on the Gold Coast.
In a seesawing affair at the Canal, the Eagles led early on, before Bond hit back to go into the half-time break with a narrow three-point lead.
Norths responded in the second stanza to lead 40-36, before a Bond try in the 75th minute looked to seal victory for the hosts.
A penalty to Eagles flyhalf Jacob Prideaux sent his side back into the lead at 43-41, but it wasn’t to be for the visitors, as inspirational backrower Connor Pritchard again stepped up to secure the crucial penalty and give Third the chance to again snatch victory for the Bullsharks.
New recruit Egan Siggs was particularly impressive in the front row, while it was another strong performance from Bond attitude wise, with the side refusing to go away for the full 80-minutes once again.
The same can be said for Norths, who continue to stay in the fight no matter the score, opposition or time remaining.
They’ll be looking to snare their first win of the season against Wests this weekend, with Bond taking on Brothers at Crosby Park.
3. Dragons on the boardOnly a Tom Lucas penalty could split Souths and Sunnybank in Round 3, as the Dragons claimed a narrow 14-13 win in the southside derby.
The Magpies trailed at the half-time break, before opening up a 13-11 lead late in the second-half courtesy of tries to Khan Ah Wang and KJ Lam.
Souths looked to have secured the win at Oldmac Oval, before a rousing Sunnybank scrum gave Lucas the chance to step up and snatch victory in front of his home crowd.
The captain made no mistake, slotting his third penalty goal of the afternoon to secure his side’s first win of the season.
Lucas was again key for the Dragons as he continues his strong start to the season, while Lloyd Gorman also impressed with his move from loosehead prop to hooker midway through in the match.
Former Romanian international Luke Samoa made his official debut for the Magpies in the loss, and his combination with promising scrumhalf Billy Rutherford shapes as an important factor for the side this season.
Promising youngster Lukas Ripley also debuted in the black-and-white, the Brisbane Boys College product seeing minutes off the bench in his first year out of school.
Souths have the bye to refresh this week, while Sunnybank will host UQ.
4. GPS machine rolls onGPS made it three wins from as many starts this season over the weekend, with a 26-13 victory over rivals Brothers at Yoku Road.
The Gallopers went to the break with a 14-10 lead in a tightly contested opening half, before gaining ascendancy in the second half against an improved Brethren side.
The physicality of the Jeeps side, both with ball in hand and in the defensive line was particularly strong at Yoku Road, with the Gallopers aggressive and uncompromising from the outset.
Lock Jamie Rickward continues to impress for Jeeps after filling the huge boots of stalwart Dan Gorman, while skipper Michael Richards led the charge as usual in front of the Ashgrove faithful.
Execution and accuracy remain the main focuses for the Brethren, with the side failing to rediscover the precision and consistency that delivered them the minor premiership last season.
Although the side has room for improvement, there are plenty of positives for the men from Crosby Park, with Noah Nielsen again a standout in the backrow, and the experienced heads in the backline of Rohan Saifoloi and Paddy James among the side’s best.
They’ll host Bond this week, while GPS travel to Tigerland to take on fellow heavyweights Easts in a blockbuster clash.
5. Hospital Cup tighter than everWith all four games decided by 13-points or less, this year’s Hospital Challenge Cup is shaping up to be one of the closest ever.
Late penalty goals were the only thing that could separate Souths and Sunnybank, as well as Bond and Norths, while the remaining two games could have gone either way for much of the 80-minutes at UQ and GPS respectively.
With only eight regular season games to come before finals, wins are at a premium, and a single loss could completely derail a side’s premiership hopes.
The race to the Hospital Cup is on.