A 10-try grand final masterclass has seen Launceston retain their TRU Premiership crown at Rugby Park and ice one of the most dominant seasons in recent memory.
The minor premiers were never headed in Saturday’s 62-19 demolition of Taroona, laying on four early tries in a 10-minute blitz before kicking clear in the second half to silence the Penguins’ faithful at Rugby Park.
Tigers vice-captain and best on ground TJ Pieters again proved his worth on the big stage with two tries and four conversions while Leone Vonoyauyau (two), Neels Truter, Marika Nadaulevu, Salisio Naisorotabua, Jone Chand, Kyle Lombard and Josua all bagged five-pointers.
“Taroona’s the only team we hadn’t punished and put the points on this year, so we really wanted to put it all together and show what we can do when our rugby is flowing,” Launceston coach Darren Nicholson said.
“Our mantra this year has been to wear teams down, break them, and then punish them.
“We haven’t let teams off this year – a lot of teams will get a big lead and then pull off – but we’ve tried to put the foot down even more this year.”
“It’s about putting in a full 80-minute performance and we did that.”
Yet few would’ve predicted a punishing 43-point margin with the scores locked at 0-all after 15 minutes.
Launceston dominated territory and possession early in the piece but Taroona’s goal-line defence and set-piece was up to task, twice repelling the Tigers over the goal line and probing their own opportunities to score first.
It took an individual piece of brilliance from Pieters to finally crack the Penguins, the halfback jinking past three defenders from a Truter offload and diving over in the 16th minute.
But from there the floodgates opened, first through a runaway Vonoyauyau effort and then via Truter’s solo charge down the right touchline.
And when Nadaulevu barrelled over third phase from a quick tap penalty, the Tigers were suddenly 26-0 up scoring a point a minute.
Vonoyauyau’s second try in the shadows of halftime left Taroona 31-0 down but the Penguins rallied bravely, forcing a tighthead scrum and sending Fine Taue over to open the second half scoring.
Buoyed, Taroona charged back down into Tigers territory and looked to wrestle back momentum with a second try but instead found Pieters, who snapped up a loose pass and sprinted 80m to score against the run of play.
The Penguins continued to press forward but were again their own worst enemy, twice coughing up possession near Launceston’s goal-line and paying the price with Vuto and Pieters sparking long-range counterattacks finished by Naisorotabua and Chand.
Trailing 50-7, Taroona jagged some pride back with late tries to James Holman and Jordan Eddington but the Tigers weren’t to be denied, scoring through Lombard and Vuto to stamp an emphatic win.