McInnes Wilson Lawyers Brisbane City have retained the Andy Purcell Cup with a strong 44–24 win over Bond University Queensland Country in Round 3 of the Buildcorp National Rugby Championship (NRC).
Playing in front of 2,204 passionate fans at Toowoomba’s Clive Berghofer Stadium on Sunday afternoon, Brisbane City secured a bonus point after the siren to finish the round on top of the ladder.
The match held extra importance given both teams were playing for the Andy Purcell Cup, a trophy that was introduced last year for the annual Queensland derby in the NRC and is named after the late Queensland Rugby Union (QRU) Life Member, Andy Purcell. Purcell graced the game with more than 50 years of service - first as a player, then a referee, a coach and also as an administrator.
Brisbane City head coach Nick Stiles said the team was thrilled to secure both the Andy Purcell Cup and a bonus-point win over a dogged Country side.
“That was a really tough clash, very physical. We always knew Country would be fired up for this one and they didn’t take a backward step. We knew if we could stay composed we’d be able to score points. It wasn’t perfect, but we’ll take the five points,” Stiles said.
“Any time you play for a trophy, it’s special, and we know how much Andy Purcell contributed to Queensland Rugby, so it’s an honour to compete in his name and we’re always happy when we can hang on to a piece of silverware.
“It was great to see so much competition between the Reds teammates. We had guys like Andrew Ready and Saia Fainga’a going head to head today and I think the way they pushed each other bodes well for Super Rugby next year.”
While disappointed with the result, Queensland Country head coach Jason Gilmore was happy with elements of his team’s performance.
“I was satisfied with the effort from the boys, but we need to be more clinical,” Gilmore said.
“Losing a couple of experienced players like Radike Samo and Chris Feauai-Sautia early in the game cost us in terms of impact around the field, but I was happy with the way our reserves stepped up today and stood up to some experienced players in the City side.
"It was also great to get out and play in-front of the Darling Downs Rugby community as QRU celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Queensland Country Rugby Union."
Queensland Country headed into the match looking to avenge last season’s 16-point loss at Ballymore, however, they were unable to capitalise on a number of opportunities inside City's half, which meant that the Country side was chasing the match throughout the second half.
Promising fullback Junior Laloifi scored a brace of tries and the City boys were led astutely by captain Liam Gill, who was a handful in both attack and defence all afternoon. His shift also included a spectacular gridiron-style 30-metre quarterback pass from a quick line-out and also a more conventional try from close range.
The match kicked off in scrappy fashion with Brisbane City making a number of uncharacteristic errors early and former Wallabies Number 8 Radike Samo capitalised, scoring an easy try off the back of an attacking scrum inside the visitors 22. Flyhalf Sam Greene knocked over the sideline conversion with ease to give Queensland Country an 8–0 lead inside the first five minutes.
The loss of Samo in the ninth minute and Feauai-Sautia later in the half to a head knock and a shoulder injury respectively, stifled Queensland Country’s momentum moving forwards and Brisbane City started to dominate the collisions. With the ascendency, Brisbane capitalised on a well-worked backline move that saw Karmichael Hunt put Alex Gibbon away for the visitor’s first points. Jake McIntyre’s conversion was unsuccessful leaving Queensland Country in the lead 8–5.
In the 36th minute Brisbane City crossed the chalk again, with rangy lock Ben Hyne barging over out wide after camping in the host’s red zone for a number of minutes. McIntyre had no issue with slotting the conversion taking City out to a 13–8 half-time lead.
The second half started much the same as the first with a number of handling errors, before Brisbane City used their backline to cut through Queensland Country with Laloifi scoring the first of his two tries. The conversion was easily converted by McIntyre to give Brisbane City a 21–8 lead.
It didn’t take long for Queensland Country to hit back as Campbell Magnay barged over from close range to get the crowd right back into it. Greene slotted the conversion to close the gap to 21-16 inside the opening hour.
Soon after, Brisbane City found themselves back on the attack and Gill crashed over after a well-worked line-out move from five metres out and moments later Laloifi scored an 95-metre try courtesy of a Queensland Country error. City had raced out to a handy 34–16 lead.
Following the kick off, Brisbane City lock Cadeyrn Neville was sin-binned for repeated infringements and the one-man advantage was influential in Queensland Country setting a dominant scrum, paving the way for Jack Cornelsen’s pushover try. Suddenly, Country were right back in it, trailing by 10 points, 44-34, with 10-minutes to play.
However, Queensland Country failed to exit properly from the ensuing kick-off and Brisbane City were gifted a two-point penalty goal to stretch their lead to 12-points, courtesy of McIntyre. After the siren had sounded, Chris Kuridrani dotted down to secure Brisbane City’s bonus-point try to round out a 44-24 victory.
As a result of today’s victory, Brisbane City remain perched at the top of the NRC ladder.
City has a four-day turnaround before they take on the North Harbour Rays at Ballymore Stadium on Thursday night. Country travel south next week to play the Greater Sydney Rams on Saturday at Foreshaw Park.
McInnes Wilson Lawyers Brisbane City 44 (Alex Gibbon, Ben Hyne, Junior Laloifi 2, Liam Gill, Chris Kuridrani tries; Jake McIntyre 3 conversions, 1 penalty; Henry Taefu 1 conversions) defeated Bond University Queensland Country 24 (Radike Samo, Campbell Magnay, Jack Cornelsen tries; Sam Greene 3 conversions) at Clive Berghofer Stadium in Toowoomba on Sunday 6 September.