Veteran ACT Brumbies winger Clyde Rathbone insists he is ready for a Super Rugby recall if required after making a successful comeback from injury on Saturday.
But the Gungahlin Eagles ruined Rathbone’s first game in more than a month, romping to a 46-14 triumph at Griffith Oval in the opening game of the John I Dent Cup season.
Rathbone’s year has been delayed by illness and a hamstring problem, but the 32-year-old Super Rugby championship winner said he was back on track after getting through 40 minutes unscathed.
His presence was not enough to lift Easts to an upset victory as the Eagles’ forward pack made light work of its opponents.
But Rathbone’s comeback – which ended with a cut above his left eye – will bolster the Brumbies’ back-line stocks for the second half of the season.
''It’s been frustrating ... you want to play, but I can only control what I can and you want to influence the team when you’re not out there,'' Rathbone said.
''[The game for Easts] was a nice box to tick. One of the advantages of being my age is that I don’t feel like I need to play lots of rugby. If my body feels good, I’m ready to go. My responsibility is to be in a position to play if I’m called on, and that’s how I feel.''
The opening round of the John I Dent Cup season was washed out last weekend, delaying the start to the campaign.
But the Eagles wasted no time asserting themselves as a finals contender with an easy victory over an undermanned Easts. They scored eight tries and always looked in control, despite Easts refusing to give in.
Easts' forward pack was bashed by the Eagles at the set piece as they dominated the scrum contest with the help of Brumbies Josh Mann-Rea and Ruaidhri Murphy.
''We improved in the second half; we wanted physicality in the contest,'' Eagles coach Owen Finegan said.
''We weren’t clinical enough in our finishing. We turned the ball over too many times in good position and their scramble defence for the whole game was pretty good.''
Easts were down on troops before kick-off, with three regular first-graders away at a wedding.
They scored two late tries, but coach Jeremy Osborne conceded they could not match Gungahlin’s forward-pack power.
''We never gave up, but they were just too strong. I think we won about two or three scrums all day,'' he said.
JOHN I DENT CUP ROUND TWO
Gungahlin Eagles 46 (X. Duffy, M. Dolokoto, R. Ilolahia, C. Smith, P. Katoa, M. Connolly, A. Barrell, J. Fulivai tries; L. Cronje 3 conversions) bt Easts 14 (J. Douglas, T. Pilkington tries; D. Eason 2 conversions); Tuggeranong Vikings 39 bt Uni-Norths Owls 13; Queanbeyan Whites 36 bt Royals 17.