Former Wallabies skipper Ben Mowen has won a dream shot at a premiership climax to his career after guiding Easts into the Hospital Cup grand final.
No.8 Mowen scored the first of the Tigers’ four tries with a quick pick-and-drive from the ruckbase in the opening minutes of the preliminary final against Bond University at Ballymore.
The Tigers were never headed from there, led 21-3 at half-time and rebuilt any confidence eroded in their limp loss in the major semi-final of Queensland Premier Rugby a week earlier.
The Tigers have a rematch against University of Queensland at Ballymore on Sunday in what should be a terrific grand final.
The 14-0 start in as many minutes was just the lesson No.8 Mowen had hoped his side would learn after opening the major semi too tamely with not enough tempo and mental aggression.
Mowen has set a wonderful example for the Tigers this year by choosing to play a final season at 35 now his professional rugby days are at an end.
He has given valuable advice at every turn, driven training standards and added classy touches from the backrow in every game he’s played.
He has never won a club grand final and will now get the chance as the Tigers shoot for their first premiership since 2013.
Bond showed enormous composure when upsetting GPS 32-27 in the opening weekend of the finals but were too frantic and rushed in Sunday’s first half.
Starting so poorly may have had something to do with the kick-off being unexpectedly put back 90 minutes because of a fierce storm and lightning.
Easts had to deal with the disruption as well and handled it with aplomb.
The Tigers showed both power up front and razzle-dazzle in the backs to beat Bond which means they will have the firepower to hurt UQ in the decider.
Prop George Francis and hooker Richie Asiata both made big rumbling runs to go with their scrum dominance.
Flankers Tom Milosevic and Michael Gunn were everywhere. Underrated lock Mitch Schneider was always productive and try-scoring partner Seru Uru relished just playing after being an extra in the Queensland Reds’ Super Rugby AU campaign.
Uru produced a superb off-load early before the skewed cross-field kick of centre Matt Smit bounced perfectly for winger Shane Kennedy to score.
It was that sort of night for Easts with even luck going their way.
At the 25-minute mark, winger Dylan Taikato-Simpson and the silver-topped Asiata both unloaded flick passes to put Smit over.
The 21-3 scoreline was game over especially when Bond blew their best scoring chance just before half-time.
When kicking to touch from 5m for an attacking lineout, a weak stab kick was inexplicably intercepted by the Tigers.
Huge credit is due Bond for making the preliminary final for the first time but the Bull Sharks will also have learnt plenty about all that is needed to take the next step.
Young Reds prop Zane Nonggorr was outscrummed in two finals but he played 80 minutes in both to advance his education enormously.
EASTS 28 (B Mowen, S Kennedy, M Smit, S Uru tries; E Pilz 4 con) defeated BOND UNIVERSITY 3 (M Third pen goal)
Sunday at Ballymore (3.30pm AEST)
Easts v University of Queensland