An outstanding defensive effort has seen the NSW Country Eagles continue their unbeaten start to the Buildcorp NRC, after a thrilling 32-30 win on Melbourne Rising in Tamworth.
After leading 32-8 at halftime, the Eagles were kept scoreless in the second half as Melbourne tried their best to make up lost opportunities in the first half.
Melbourne created plenty of opportunities to get on the board in the second half, but were consistently thwarted by some outstanding NSW Country Eagles defence that would ultimately win them the game. Country backrower Sam Figg was outstanding for the home side, and was named a deserving man of the match.
Rising scrumhalf and Tamworth product Mick Snowden scored the first points after the break, in what was a high quality game played at Super Rugby intensity.
Late inclusion, winger Taiso Silafai-Leaana did crossed for the Rising in the 63rd minute, but Jack Debreczeni pushed the conversion wide, which would prove crucial in the final result.
Rising backrower Rob Leota got over under the posts inside the last few minutes, which Debreczeni’s conversion brought the margin back to two points in a nail-biting finish.
“It wasn’t all pretty, but it was a great game of footy,” NSW Country skipper Paddy Ryan said immediately after the win on Fox Sports.
“It was very physical toward the end, I thought their forwards were particularly good in the second half. But a win’s a win; we don’t have to draw a picture or write a story, you just put it down as a ‘W’ thankfully, so we’ll take that.”
Earlier, the match was a ferocious back-and-forth affair as both sides looked to build the early momentum. Rising had the early chances, but suddenly it was NSW Country bombing certain tries.
The first half then burst into points-scoring life after twenty minutes, with Country jumping out to a 16-point lead through converted tries to Tolu Latu and Australian Sevens rep, Sam Figg, and then with the Rising hitting back via flyhalf Ben Meehan and a Jack Debreczeni conversion in the 27th minute.
The Eagles then scored two more converted tries to lock Ned Hanigan – his third in three weeks – and Jake Gordon, who ran one in after Waratahs and Country centre Dave Horwitz broke away after a turnover. Flyhalf Andre Deegan was slotting them from everywhere by now, landing conversions from both touchlines as NSW Country jumped out to a 32-8 halftime lead.
NSW Country prop Tom Robertson’s day was done at halftime, with the 22-year-old rushed to the airport to catch the only possible flight that would allow him to link with the Wallabies in Perth on Sunday night.
NSW COUNTRY EAGLES 32
Tries: T. Latu, S. Figg, N. Hanigan, J. Gordon
Cons: A. Deegan 4/4
MELBOURNE RISING 30
Tries: B. Meehan, M. Snowden, T. Silafai-Leaana
Cons: J. Debreczeni 3/4