Bond University Queensland Country have gone down to the North Harbour Rays 50-32, in Round 8 of the Buildcorp National Rugby Championship (NRC) at Sydney’s Pittwater Rugby Park.
In front of a spirited Northern Beaches crowd at ‘Rat Park’, Queensland Country and the North Harbour Rays battled it out in a tit-for-tat match.
In the opening 10-minutes of the match, the North Harbour Rays struggled with discipline, with Country awarded four penalties in a short amount of time, giving the side field position and the opportunity to attack.
The Rays misfortune paid-off for Country in the 10th minute, with prop Sef Fa’agase diving over the line following a pick-and-drive effort from the forwards for the first try of the match. A successful conversion from Sam Greene took Country to an early 8-0 lead.
Rays scrumhalf, Josh Holmes, answered Country with a try of his own. The conversion from Hamish Angus was successful levelling the score at 8-all.
A shoulder-charge from Country prop Taniela Tupou saw him dealt a yellow card in the 27th minute.
Queensland Country lock Phil Potgieter made an impressive break, chip-kicking the ball over opposition heads and chasing the ball down field, out running two Rays players to cross for his first try of the NRC. Greene slotted the conversion to put Country back in the lead, 16-8.
Josh Holmes crossed for his second of the match in the 22nd minute, dummying and slipping through the defensive line.
Queensland Country captain James Tuttle secured an impressive try of his own in the 36th minute, manoeuvring around the Rays defence to score.
Country were leading 24-16 when an unconverted Rays try just before half-time saw the home team trail by just three points, 24-21, heading into the sheds.
The second-half started well for Country, with Campbell Magnay crossing under the sticks, nine-minutes into the half.
However, the Rays answered with a try to outside centre Michael Adams two-minutes later. An unsuccessful conversion from the home side kept Country in the lead 32-26.
Rays captain Luke Holmes scored just minutes later off the back of a rolling maul to give his side a 34-32 lead.
In the final 10-minutes of the match, the Rays slipped ahead, scoring two-tries to extend their lead further, seeing them secure a 50-32 victory.
Head coach Jason Gilmore said: “It was a disappointing performance today. After holding a half-time lead, we struggled to get any ascendancy in the second half.
“We knew heading into the match that the Rays were a side that were competitive for the full 80-minutes and they capitalised on their opportunities which delivered them the win.”
Despite the loss, a positive for Country was the debut of young halves Mack Mason (Mitchell) and Harry Nucifora (Gold Coast).
“It was great to see Mack and Harry make their debuts today. The pair have played a lot of Rugby together and both represent two Queensland Country regions. While they received limited minutes today, the two have promising careers ahead of them.”
“We’re looking forward to finishing the season on the Sunshine Coast. We’ve got players in Haydn Hirsimaki, Elliott Hagen and Conor Mitchell who all hail from the Sunshine Coast and they’re really looking forward to playing in front of their family and friends at home.
“For Haydn and Elliott, both were part of the Sunshine Coast Stingrays when the premier side was based at Sunshine Coast Stadium so for those boys it will be a special experience,” Gilmore added.
North Harbour Rays 50 (J Holmes (2), L Holmes (2), M Adams (2), S Lane tries; H Angus (5) conv.) defeated Queensland Country 32 (S Fa’agase, P Potgieter, J Tuttle, C Magnay tries; S Greene (4)
Source: Queensland Country