“We tried to needle it in there but when they said the half time break wasn’t going to be 12 minutes – they cut it down to seven because of the [social distancing] stoppage earlier – we didn’t get a chance to get the needle in,” Gordon coach Darren Coleman said.
“That’s why we were losing some of those scrums. He couldn’t hold on. He came out and his first three throws after the break were all crooked. He couldn’t hold the ball in his left hand. He will have some pins put in it.
“He’s just the toughest kid I’ve ever met.”
In Coleman’s eyes, Vailanu’s toughness and an incredible stint of goal line scrummaging won Gordon the match.
“We’ve had a word since our first camp – to be resilient. That’s what we were today. We were great,” he said.
Stellar performances from Wallabies No.8 Jack Dempsey, flyhalf Rod Iona and fullback Reece Macdonald – as well as a dominant forward pack – ensured the majority of fans at Leichhardt Oval were sent home happy.
Eastwood lock Lachlan Anstee scored the first try of the afternoon when his former Australian Sevens teammate spilled a Matt Gonzalez box kick but the first half was otherwise one way traffic.
A trio of Iona penalties gave Gordon a healthy 9-5 lead with 10 minutes to play in the first half.
When Eastwood flyhalf Tane Edmed grubbered a dreadful kick in behind Gordon’s line rather than try to clear his own half, Woodies were punished.
Quinn took the opportunity to run at some tired Eastwood bodies, beat two tackles and found Macdonald to score a try which gave Gordon a 14-5 half-time lead.
At that point, Eastwood weren’t in the contest. Their forwards were making no indent on Gordon’s defensive line and if it wasn’t for some well earned penalties at the defensive breakdown, the Stags would have been further in front at the break.
However, Eastwood lifted in the second half. Edmed slotted a simple penalty shot moments after missing a tougher shot from 40 metres out and only an incredible Macdonald tackle on Pat Sio stopped Edmed from having a shot from the sideline to put his side in front with 20 minutes to play.
Three scrum penalties later, Gordon’s John Tagaloa was sent to the sin bin, Eastwood had all the momentum and a one man advantage.
But Gordon’s forwards somehow regrouped, won a penalty to clear their half three scrum resets later and Iona split the line to score the sealer.
The Gordon contingent on the Wayne Pearce Hill – who had exchanged some choice words with Eastwood fans in the few minutes prior – were raucous. For the first time in 22 years.
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Sam is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.