The North Harbour Rays sparked into life in the second half but still fell short in their week four Buildcorp National Rugby Championship match against Brisbane City on Thursday night.
The Rays lost 29-55 against the defending NRC title holders, but showed plenty of resolve in what were extremely trying circumstances at Ballymore Stadium in Brisbane.
Brisbane City scored eight tries to the Rays four in the end, but for much of the second half the visitors were well within range of the competition’s red hot favourites.
The Rays certainly weren’t helped by the second yellow card handed out to Dennis Pili-Gaitau who appeared to have rights to contest possession when he was pinged by referee Rohan Hoffman.
That saw Pili-Gaitau red carded (two yellow cards means a mandatory red card) and the Rays were short handed for the last 30 minutes of the game.
But they remained in the fight and managed at one stage to draw within five points of Brisbane City before a late surge of points pushed out the gap in the scoreline.
Hoffman in the end yellow carded four players on the night – Pili-Gaitau twice with Liam Gill and Scott Higginbotham also copping time on the sideline.
There were lots of heroes out there for the Rays led by scrumhalf Josh Holmes, fullback Reece Hodge and the breakdown tyro Boyd Killingworth.
But head and shoulders above those three was winger Alex Northam who must have impressed many with his speed, elusiveness and ability to sniff out a try.
Northam scored what the Fox Sports commentators were calling the try of the tournament so far down the right hand side when he stood up his opposite and dived into the corner to start the second half.
He made another couple of searching runs which came within a whisker of the tryline and was solid in his defence and reading of the opposition’s attack.
Encouragingly Sam Lane came on late in the second half and contributed to the cause with some nice sniping around the breakdown and some good kicking for territory.
Tighthead prop Alex Holmes, who only came to the Rays this week via Bond University and Narbonne, came on and helped settle the scrum while Ruairidh Wilson also worked well in his NRC debut.
Rays skipper Luke Holmes lamented leaking points in that first half that saw his team having to play from behind.
“Yeah we leaked a few points in and around the scrum in that first half which made things hard for us,” Holmes said.
“We copped a bit of a beating there but we’ve got the bye next week and we’ll regroup and work on some of the negatives that came out of that game.
“There’s a lot of points in this team and we just have to get ourselves into a position where we don’t have to chase the game.”
The Rays will have the week off next week but return to the beaches and Pittwater Rugby Park when they take on the UC Vikings on Saturday, September 26. The game will have a 3pm kick-off.