Stage is set for a Ballymore classic between Tigers and Red Heavies

· Hospital Cup
by Nick Wasiliev

Originally published on RUGBY.com.au

Two teams. Sunday afternoon at the home of Queensland rugby.

2020 has been a year of surprises in the Hospital Challenge Cup, with the emergence of several contenders like Bond University. However, from the get go it was clear there were two teams that look a cut above the rest, and those two teams are meeting this weekend in the final.

University of Queensland

It's been a topsy turvy year for the Red Heavies. Coming off last years win, they came into this year with a target on their back, and after struggling in their first few games many thought they would be struggling to retain their crown.

However, upon hitting the halfway mark of the season, the Students had their backs to the wall and delivered some fantastic results, however a round 11 loss to Bond Uni denied them the minor premiership.

Not that it mattered, as they beat Easts in the first round of finals to earn themselves a home grand final.

The team has solid players from front to back, and are coached by Mick Heenan, the man who coached Brisbane City in the 2017-18 NRC competitions. The club has flourished under Heenan's guidance, and if they prevail on the weekend it will see Heenan pick up his fifth crown as coach, a feat only achieved by two other coaches in QLD club history, and the first to achieve it in 75 years. A win would also see the club achieve back to back premierships for the first time in thirty years.

Among the standout players, young gun Mac Grealy has enjoyed an impressive first year of club Rugby, being named the U20s Player of the Year for 2020. A weapon in the backline, he has complimented a very experienced forward pack, which includes the likes of NRC graduates Connor-James Vest and Sam Wallis.

It is hard not to see them as favourites for this match, but if there is any team that could knock them off, it would be their opponents.

Easts Tigers

Despite having to take the longer route to get here, the Tigers finished the season as minor premiers in 2020. Improving heavily on their season last year, they rose to the top of the ladder early in the season, and stayed there pretty much all year, bar the occasional challenge from the Red Heavies.

They lost their finals clash against University of Queensland however, but strongly overcame a powerful Bond Uni outfit last week 28-3 to make it to the big dance.

This match marks their first grand final appearance since losing the 2015 final to Souths, and with them not having holstered the cup since 2013, they be plenty of incentive to bring their hiatus to its end.

The Tigers have been steered round the park by the imposing Mosese Rauluni, the renowned former Fijian international and captain. He has also garnered considerable coaching achievements of his own, including serving as Assistant coach to Fiji, and as assistant coach to Queensland Country in the NRC.

The Tigers side will have a lot of work to do to shut down a side as talented as the Red Heavies, but they certainly have the talent to do it. The most notable is some bloke, you may have heard of him: Ben Mowen. The former Wallabies skipper has been instrumental in Easts' success this year, being rewarded the Alec Evans Medal for his efforts.

He's also bolstered by prop George Francis, who has been the stuff of nightmares for opposition scrummagers all year, and Matt Smit in the centres. These guys cap off what is a very talented first grade outfit, with plenty of physicality up front and talent to burn out back.

The Hospital Challenge Cup games will be live and free on Rugby Xplorer, available on the App Store.

Easts Premierships: 1997, 1998, 2008, 2013

Uni of Qld Premierships: 1928, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1934, 1938, 1941, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1952, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1960, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1979, 1988, 1989, 1990, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2017, 2019

This article was originally published on RUGBY.com.au.