It's been a long time since Brothers have fielded a fifth grade senior side.
As the colts had a bye this week, it was a good oppportunity to get a Halligan cup game in and keep the young bucks from getting rusty.
Saturday came around and it was a mixed bag of experience and youth that ran onto the pitch for fifth grade.
As to be expected, it was a bit of a scrappy first half as the new look team struggled for consistency and patterns.
As our size and experience advantage in the forwards (that included utility player Dave Bullard in an unfamiliar position at loose head!) came to bear, we started to pull away in the second half. This was emphasized when our new loose head prop got carried away with his new front row position and nearly cut an Epping back in half with a massive hit.
Once we got a platform for our backs, we were able to start producing opportunities to open up Epping's defence and started to score tries.
Tries came from Rob Precious, Bullard, Stu Raines and Phil Hogan
Brothers 22 - 10 Epping
Fourth grade are starting to make a habit of winning games in the second half. This week was no different.
The first half was tightly contested and was marked by some physical exchanges in the rucks and some indiscipline from both teams.
Epping scored a try right on the stroke of half time to go into the interval ahead. Epping are a well coached club, and have well drilled, physical forward packs across all grades, and it took unti the second half of the game for Brothers to start gaining a foothold in this arm wrestle of a game.
Once Jonny Evans, Matty G, Matt C, Shaun and Charlie started to get over the gainline, it started giving us a better platform to get Tim, Nick and Kitchen into the game and stretch Epping out wide.
An excellent solo try from Marc Lav and another try from Jonny Evans put us in control as we heaped pressure on their line in the second half.
It has to be mentioned, that despite playing well over 100 games for Brothers, this was Jonny Evans first ever try for the blue and gold, which topped off an immensely physical man of the match display from the big man.
I think everyone has to agree that's it's great to see Jonny back, after a hard time with a few injuries.
A try apiece from Marc Lav, Charlie and Jonny Evans
3: Jonny Evans: Dominant physical performance, first try ever for the club, and a bloody nice bloke.
2: Shaun Donachie: Energetic, physical play. Popped up all over the pitch, and did a lot of hard, dirty work to allow us to start to dominate the game.
1: Kitchen: Solid game, straight running, good hands. Good to see the biggest pisshead in the club back on the pitch.
Brothers 19 - 0 Epping
Another solid performance from third grade, however, it's a game we probably could look back on and think. "We could have done better."
Despite a solid experienced pack and some real talent in the backs, we stuggled to get into the game at times.
This could be attributed to some indiscipline, some uncharacteristic mistakes and to be honest, an excellent performance from a number of the Epping forwards, who kept the pressure on us at the breakdown.
This game could also go down in history as the game with the worst decision ever from a referee in the history of time.
After Isei had run the entire length of the pitch to score a fantastic solo try, the referee who was standing 80 meters away ruled a knock on in the in goal area.
Even the Epping guys seemed taken aback by the decision, which robbed us of what would have probably been a deserved bonus point.
3: Karl: Weapon in the scrum, weapon in the loose.
2: Hans: Another solid all round performance. Typical Hans workrate.
1: Salty: Broke the line, soft hands, great phyisical defence.
Brothers 24 - 10 Epping
Second grade are in a rich seam of form, having won all their games this season so far, with 4 try bonus points in each.
The structure of their game has improved even over last year's grand final winning side, and now that the team is getting used to playing together each week, this can only improve.
With Dean pulling the strings at 9 and Geoff getting the backs running on to the ball we always looked threating.
This combined with some excellent forward work from the likes of Johnny Gibbs, Tux, Enda and Brownie allowed us to pressurise them and keep them pinned into their own half for most of the game.
This constant pressure gave us numerous overlaps that we were able to exploit.
Tries came from Club Captain Paulie, Geoff, Jone and Enda.
3: Brownie: Dominant in the scrum, solid defensive play, and instrumental in the forward platform that won us the game.
2: Mick: Strong straight running, combined with very physical defensive work. Typical "in the trenches" performance from the nuggety 12.
1: Davo: Another great performance from a man who continues to lead by example every week.
Brothers 26 - 15 Epping
A very physical and closely contested first grade between two unbeaten teams very much lived up to expectations.
Brothers started off well, working through the phases and getting over the gainline.
Epping though, as they had done all day, were very well drilled, and disrupted a lot of our continuity with some excellent defence and some solid hit ups.
Buckets and Lenny and Matty Mc worked hard in the back row to take the ball over the gain line and Tazer and Charlie popped up with some big carries in traffic.
In the end the superior physicality of the Brothers midfield where Franny, Kapene and Shaka were dominant started to punch holes in the Epping defence, and our runners like Mungo, Charlie, Vula and Lenny started to reap the benefits.
Epping are going to be an even stronger prospect at home, so the rematch of this game in another few weeks promises to be an even closer and tougher challenge.
Charlie popped up with two tries, and another yellow card! Buckets picked up a try as did Lenny.
3: Daz Kapene: Solid defence, great strong running, good game control and brought runners into the game at pace.
2: Francis Cullimore: More strong running in midfield, broke the gainline continuously, and dominated in defence. Almost back to his best...
1: Buckets: More excellent defence work, Pocock-like pilfering in the ruck, and great link up play in a back row that had a great all round game.