Bailey Piper was the toast of the Tumut Eagles on Sunday, putting in a brilliant performance up front to score a hat-trick and help guide his Gardiner Shield side to a 3-1 victory over the Junee Jaguars at The Bull Paddock.
The 20-year-old couldn’t be stopped in front of goal, combining well with Rhys Creed and Flynn Piper-Bye to cause havoc in the front third of the field.
Piper scored the first of his goals in the first half, after Flynn Piper-Bye played in a nice ball to Rhys Creed, who crossed to Piper before he slotted it home.
Junee did hit back and the scores were locked at one-all, although Piper should have been credited with a second, but a dubious off-side call meant the scores would be left tied at the break.
The second half saw Tumut on the attack and consistently pressing a tiring Junee back four, although a goal was hard to come by, with plenty of close misses.
With 15 minutes left on the clock, Piper scored his second goal to put the Eagles in front after some very smart football.
Piper had the ball on the left wing and noticed the Junee keeper was floating forward, before lofting a strike from 35m out to score a wonderful go-ahead goal which sent Tumut fans into raptures.
The third goal came in the final 30 seconds of the contest and was on the back of some Creed magic, with the striker beating two players before passing to Piper, he made no mistake sealing his hat-trick.
Piper was understandably pleased to land a hat-trick of goals and help Tumut to their second Gardiner Shield victory of the season.
“(It’s) pretty good to do my part for the team, scoring the final one was awesome to tick off a hat-trick,” Piper said.
The youngster was happier to get a much-needed win though, suggesting it will give the Eagles a spring in their step with two rounds of the Gardiner Shield competition remaining before finals.
“It’s a pretty key win, hopefully (we get) a few more down the backend of the season so we can sneak into finals,” Piper said.
“We’ve been performing each game, often a short lapse in intensity has cost us a couple of games, so it was unreal to put in a 90-minute performance.”
Coach Dylan Piper-Bye was happy for his hard-working striker, who he thought was deserving off a rare hat-trick.
“I loved seeing that as it was another really good effort from Bailey,” Piper-Bye said.
“He would be one of the most deserving players in the whole of the Tumut Eagles to score a hat-trick, he has worked his absolute tail off every week in reserve grade, running up and down the field.”
Piper-Bye believes the performance will give Piper and the Eagles confidence ahead of their final two rounds of the competition and finals.
“He has been a little unlucky and hasn’t had many opportunities this season and it is really good for him and boosts our reserve grade team and gives them confidence,” Piper-Bye said.
“We definitely have an opportunity now come finals and hopefully they use that as motivation.”
Unfortunately, Tumut’s third grade team couldn’t get the win, going down 2-nil to South Wagga.
The Warriors scored one in each half, but could have scored a few more if it wasn’t for Tumut’s defending and goalkeeping.