Jacob Visser scores the first try for Easts against Uni-Norths on Saturday. Photo: Matt BedfordThe Uni-Norths Owls are building the belief they can match it with the John I Dent Cup’s top contenders as they stake their claim for a drought-breaking finals berth.
The Owls battled through horrible conditions to beat Easts 27-10 at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night.
They have won two of their first three games and the club is determined to break through for a rare finals appearance.
The Owls have struggled to break into top-four contention in the past decade and have failed to make a dent against the competition heavyweights.
But coach Joe Hedger believes the players are laying the foundation to chase success this year.
“What I’m seeing is that there’s a different culture that is built around strong self belief and the mindset that this is something we can do this year,” Hedger said.
“Winning builds confidence. When the games get to a tough point there’s a belief that we can work our way out of it. A lot of that comes back to winning games in tight situations.
“We can rely on that this year and it can help us.”
The Owls looked like they were going to blow Easts off the park in the opening 20 minutes, dominating field position and possession to get out to a 10-0 lead.
Inside centre Sam Irwin cruised through a gap to score the opener, but Easts clamped down to turn the match into a grind.
Easts, who have struggled financially and with results in recent years, were playing for the Owen Brown Memorial Trophy, named after the man who kept the club afloat in its darkest days.
They cut the lead to five points in the second half, but it sparked the Owls into action and they managed to escape with a bonus-point triumph.
Easts have one win this season as coach John Ross starts his rebuilding process, and skipper Joe Shirley is confident they’ll get results for their hard work.
“It’s just the little mistakes that are killing us and Uni-Norths took advantage of that,” Shirley said. “If we clean that up hopefully things will go our way. In those situations in the past that result could have become a cricket score.
“But we stuck it out and didn’t let it happen. We’re going in the right direction, we just have to keep on going.
“People have to have some belief. We used to have a culture of dropping our heads and thinking, ‘here we go again’. But I think things will come if we have that belief.”
AT A GLANCE
Saturday: UNI-NORTHS OWLS 27 (Sam Irwin, Raymond Dobson, Paula Katoa, Phil Ferreier tries; Sam Irwin 2 conversion, penalty) bt EASTS 10 (James Paul try; Darcy Eason conversion, penalty); TUGGERANONG VIKINGS 38 bt ROYALS 13; QUEANBEYAN WHITES 20 bt WESTS 12
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