WOLLOGONG, AUSTRALIA – Three rounds of captivating action are in the books in the newly-created Australian Buildcorp National Rugby Championship. Here is a whip-around Round 3 Recap and Round 4 Preview.
Brookvale Oval, Sydney – The round kicked off with the with an all NSW clash with the North Harbour Rays hosting the undefeated NSW Country Eagles on a rain soaked Thursday night on the Manly Peninsula. The Rays having the bye were coming off a first up loss to the powerful Melbourne Rising, while surprise packets NSW Country had recorded two solid victories over both the Greater Sydney Rams and traditional rivals Queensland Country… The Rays entered the match hopeful that the 12-day break would have allowed for them to develop the crucial combinations required to counter the powerful NSW Country pack and the mix of power, pace and skill in the backline. Early signs suggested that they had used their bye wisely, with the Rays first to score. Unfortunately, from there the majority of the half belonged to the Eagles, who scored three tries; one from the top shelf with Tahs veteran Stephen Hoiles putting a sublime kick pass to the competition whiz-kid and leading try scorer, Andrew ‘The Fire’ Kellaway… The second half started much the same as the first with the Rays scoring a dazzling try triggered by a counterattacking movement early in the piece. However, again the Eagles took control and were never really challenged. Handling and execution let the Rays down on the night, that and some excellent individual performances from powerhouse #6, Tala Gray. whiz kid Andrew Kelaway and the competitions standout stand-off Sam Windsor.
North Harbour Rays 21 – NSW Country 33
Adelaide Airport Stadium, Adelaide – In a move that should be applauded, the Perth Spirit chose to host their second ‘home’ fixture in another city, in another state. In front of a healthy local Adelaide crowd, the Greater Sydney Rams took the early initiative, racing away to a 10-nil lead before the competition’s second surprise packet, a Perth Premier Division-heavy Spirit team, surged ahead to finish the half 21-10… The second half started with the Rams scoring early before a quick counter punch by the Spirit. However, from there the Rams combinations and hands clicked and the ran riot in a furious 5 min period where the crossed the tryline no less than on four occasions. The Spirit posted a mini revival late in the game but fell short of a miracle come back. Finally, the Rams posted their first win of the campaign and stabilise their season… The Spirit have adopted an interesting stance regarding home and away games in the NRC. For their Perth based home games the bulk of the Force squad will be present while they plan to send locally developed players on the away legs. Ironically, it has been the club players that posted the Spirits first points in round one defeating a Brumbies heavy Vikings team. The Force squad lost to Brisbane City in round two.
Perth Spirit 34 – Greater Sydney Rams 44
Vikings Oval, Canberra – The closest and least remarkable game of the round. Queensland Country descended upon Canberra in search of their first win of the season while the UC Vikings after a first up home loss to the Perth Spirit, were hoping to begin to build momentum leading into games against both NSW Country and the Melbourne Rising. Umm… yeah, that’s really all I can say about that game.
UC Vikings 26 – Queensland Country 21
Ballymore Stadium, Brisbane – Talk about a blow out! Both teams entered the match undefeated, Brisbane City having defeated the more-fancied Spirit in Perth the week before, and the Melbourne Rising comfortably previously accounting for both the Rays and Stars with reasonable ease. The general consensus is that the Rising are the team to beat in the NRC – but what transpired was a display of power, pace, skill and dominance that surely sent chills down the spins of opponents to come… The first half started off competitively, with the Rising charging out of the gates to a 13-nil lead before City came back to square everything up and 13 – all roughly halfway through the half. But that was the last time City would be even close. Both teams scored more one try each before the half with the Rising 21-18 up.
And then came the onslaught. Eight tries followed the restart and not one to City. The Rising pack destroyed their City counterparts in the most dominant display of physical forward play you’ll likely encounter opening up space for power wing Tom English and fresh faced Sefa Naivalu to run riot. And they did.
Brisbane City 18 – Melbourne Rising 69
The Sydney Stars had a bye.
Now for the Round 4 Preview & Predictions:
Round 4 will kick-off Thursday with the Rising hosting the Spirit. It will be interesting to see if the Spirit maintain their selection policy or choose to bring on their pro squad to face the red-hot Rising. It will be key to the result. If it’s the Western Force-by-proxy, Rising by 10-15. If not, I actually don’t want to consider what the result will be… beyond ugly.
On Saturday we will see another triple-header, with Queensland Country hosting the North Harbour Rays at Cbus Stadium on the Gold Coast, Queensland. Country has a very powerful pack (it pushed NSW Country around) and a solid backline. While the Rays don’t. Simply. Country by 20+.
Next, from Pirtek Stadium in Parramatta, Sydney, the Rams will be looking to make it two in a row against the out of their depth Sydney Stars. It really depends whether the Rams can continue to cut the mistakes out of their play. If so, Rams by 15.
Finally, NSW Country will be hosting Brisbane City in Lismore, NSW. This will likely be the most competitive game of the round and may come down to the packs that will likely decide it so the edge to the Eagles. But it will be very close. Too close to call.
The UC Vikings have the bye.
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