It should have been a whole lot more comfortable than it was, but Queensland Country have done enough to their southern cousins at bay at Bond University. But only just.
The home side led 31-0 early in the second half and looked set for a huge win over the NSW Country Eagles, only for the Eagles’ luck to turn after what had been a disjointed first half display.
Queensland Country’s defence got them home in the end, but the 34-31 win will be a source of frustration this week, after the result meant they also gave up their share of the competition lead.
In the battle for country bragging rights, it was the Queenslanders who scored first. A lovely Duncan Paia’aua pass close to the line found fullback Patrick James, who with a simple left foot step left NSW Country Eagles centre Kyle Godwin clutching at air.
Queensland Country played a patient game through the first half, partly aided by the Eagles’ inability to settle in the game. The visitors were often guilty of conceding simple turnovers, and with set piece as strong as Queensland Country’s is, they didn’t need an invitation.
From a scrum in their own half, Izaia Perese made a wonderful line break that ended with him being brought to ground only inches short of the line. From the quick recycle, flanker Angus Scott-Young crashed over to push the Queenslander’s lead out to 12-0.
Filipo Daugunu crossed for Queensland Country in the 34th minute, his sixth in the last three games, and even though James Tuttle pulled his conversion left, the 17-0 lead that they took into halftime was starting to look comfortable.
It was more than comfortable soon enough. Eto Nabuli crossed for Queensland Country in the 43rd minute, and then only a few minutes later gave the perfect inside ball to centre Izaia Perese, with the Wallabies tourist finishing off some very nice play from the home side.
James Tuttle nailed both conversions from the sideline, and suddenly, NSW Country were staring at the wrong side of a 31-0 scoreline. Queensland Country were winning all aspects of the game by now, and it was already hard to see how the Eagles could come back.
The Eagles finally had something go their way in the 57th minute, when with penalty advantage being played, a Tayler Adams cross-kick landed perfectly for fullback Andrew Kellaway to score, to open NSW Country’s account after almost an hour of play.
Successive penalties in the Queensland Country half put the Eagles deep on attack and the home side on yellow card notice, and from the five-metre lineout, replacement hooker Connal McInerney dived over after an expertly executed driving maul.
Tuttle kicked a penalty in the 70th minutes in attempt to restore some of Queensland Country’s lost lead, but NSW Country won the restart and sent flanker Maclean Jones over in the corner against his old side.
When Kellaway scored from another Adams cross-kick in the 73rd minute, and the Eagles flyhalf converted, suddenly the margin was just ten points when only twenty minutes earlier that would’ve sounded absurd.
After Queensland Country no.8 Caleb Timu was shown a yellow card in the 80th minute, Eagles’ scrumhalf Jake Gordon scored from close range after the final bell to secure the losing bonus point for NSW Country.
Queensland Country 34
Tries: James, Scott-Young, Daugunu, Nabuli, Perese
Cons: Tuttle 3
Cards: Timu (80’)
NSW Country Eagles 31
Tries: Kellaway 2, McInerney, Jones, Gordon
Cons: Adams 3