East Campbelltown Eagles had planned a big day of celebrations for round one of the Sydney Shield competition.
A magnificent new clubhouse was built at their Waminda Oval home ground, but the pandemic in 2020 meant there was no formal opening.
So club president Daniel Draper, along with the club’s hard working committee, decided the opening round of the 2021 season against Cabramatta would be the perfect opportunity to do the honours.
Of course it was hoped a win by the boys in first grade would add the icing on the cake.
Unfortunately, for 79 minutes it looked like Cabra were going to spoil the party.
The visitors led all day on the scoreboard and it was right at the very end, with just seconds left, the Eagles were able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, sending the home fans wild with joy.
Campbelltown mayor George Brticevic and NSWRL CEO Dave Trodden were in the crowd to watch a thriller in Waminda, which finished with the Eagles winning 28-24.
The game didn’t start to script when Cabramatta ran in two converted tries in the first 15 minutes to grab a 12-0 lead.
The Eagles responded with a try to Kobe Chamberlain, which was converted by new recruit Jesse Lacey to reduce the margin to six points.
Cabramatta extended their lead to 18-6 before Campbelltown’s Alex Potifara injected himself into the game with a try.
Lacey’s second successful kick kept the Eagles in the game at 18-12, which was the half time scoreline.
In the second stanza possession swung the way of the home side, who were able to crack the Cabramatta defence courtesy of fullback Christian Savaiinaea.
Lacey’s conversion made it 18-18, but Cabramatta hit the lead again with a try 15 minutes into the second half.
At 24-18 it started to look like time to put the clubhouse celebrations champagne on ice.
But as it turned out the Eagles had not yet thrown in the towel.
When Luke Williams flew like an eagle to score a spectacular try out wide (pictured below) with seven minutes to go home fans started believing a win was possible.
Lacey’s conversion attempt was waved away, leaving the Eagles with a two point deficit at 24-22.
In the final minute of play, the Eagles threw all their attack down the short side.
Alex Potifara crashed over the line looking like he was going to be held up, but passed the ball out the back to winger Chris Faaee who slammed the ball down in the corner for an incredible match winner.
Jesse Lacey finished the day with a kick from the sideline and four from five for the game.
Best for the Eagles was, Christian Savaiinaea, Grant Lahey, Alex Potifara, while Broody Dooner received the players player and Luke Williams man of the match.
Coach Richard Barnes was happy to get the win, but said it was far from a good performance from the boys.
But in 30 degree heat and players cramping, he said he was pleased with the fighting spirit from the team.
“The boys never gave up and that’s a great quality to have for the 2021 season.’’