John I Dent Cup: Wests v Easts
Wests take on Easts in the John I Dent Cup at Griffith Oval. Photo: Rohan Thomson
They were thrashed 92-0 last outing, forfeited their next match and the club's very existence was being questioned.
But Easts put the most tumultous week in their history behind them by shocking Wests 28-26 in front of a jubilant Griffith Oval crowd on Saturday. The foundation club celebrated the victory like it was a grand final after ACT Brumbies centre Andrew Smith's last-gasp try secured their first win of the season.
Just 10 days ago the club was on its knees after competition heavyweight Tuggeranong racked up a cricket score against them. A huge injury toll forced it to forfeit its next game against the Vikings just days afterwards, the first time in recent history a first XV has failed to take the field.
After being clapped off by Wests, the Easts players released weeks of frustration by belting out their team song in the sheds for the first time this year.
They had three Brumbies in Smith, Ruan Smith and Jordan Smiler, but the win was made more admirable by former Wallaby fullback Jesse Mogg's presence for Wests.
Easts fly-half Darcy Eason also didn't play most of the second half after he was stretchered off and taken to hospital with a heavy concussion.
Easts coach Phil Hopkins took over from Jeremy Osborne two weeks ago and has urged his side to emerge from their slump by backing themselves. They played attacking rugby and were rewarded with Smith's 50-metre effort in the dying stages.
"The boys were definitely putting in 100 per cent today, which is something we haven't been able to do for a long time," Hopkins said. "We've been training really well with a lot of enthusiasm and that's how we played. It was exciting rugby and we showed a lot of flair and composure.''
Easts led 13-0 in the first half and 23-12 midway through the second, but looked to have let their chance slip after Wests scored two converted tries to take the lead. Easts survived a mountain of late pressure from Wests before finding the killer punch.
"I'm pleased for the boys and very pleased for the club,'' Hopkins said. "We've just tweaked things really the last couple of weeks and spoken about how important it is for the club to build momentum.''
Smith said he was happy to help the team off the canvas.
"These things can sometimes build a team and build a season,'' he said. "If we can string a few more wins together and get more numbers to training, we can build something.''
Mogg scored a try and set up another in his first outing since he was left out of Australia's squad to play France.
EASTS 28 (Timi Taipara, Andrew Smith, GP Pretorius, Marcus Lawdenbach tries; Laudenbach, Eason pen goals; Josh Monroe conv); beat WESTS 26 (Alex Giucci, Fergus Piekalns, Jesse Mogg, BJ Sione tries; Simon Uphill three conv)
Other matches:Queanbeyan 33 bt Uni-Norths 10; Tuggeranong 29 bt Royals 8.