To whet the appetite ahead of tonight's announcement of the 2015 Buildcorp National Rugby Championship fixture schedule, we look back at four of the most memorable matches from last year’s inaugural competition.
Round 1 – UC Vikings v Perth Spirit
A Sign of Things to Come
The Buildcorp National Rugby Championship wasn’t short of sceptics prior to round one. However, if any of them had the chance to see this match, their mind would have quickly changed.
It was an end to end affair that saw tries scored from everywhere in every fashion. With Super Rugby players scattered across both teams the quality was high and so was the score (23-28). The frantic attack from both sides ended in the Spirit scoring two tries in the last 10 minutes to take the lead and win the game. It was a pleasure to watch for everyone and gave a very positive indication of what this competition was going to offer in the following weeks.
Round 3 – NSW Country Eagles v North Harbour Rays
The Birth of ‘The Fire’
After his record breaking 10 try haul at the 2014 World Rugby Junior Rugby World Championships, Andrew Kellaway had plenty of people anticipating a similar performance for the New South Wales Country Eagles in the NRC. After wet weather spoiled his attacking chances in the opening round, Kellaway crossed for a hat trick in round two, and in round three a dry night at Brookvale oval against the North Harbour Rays would play the perfect setting for more of his brilliance.
In the twelfth minute Kellaway squeezed into some space down the sideline and managed to evade the tackle of Ray fullback Cam Crawford to cross for the Eagles first try of the match. Moments later the Eagles winger latched onto a cross field kick from the unlikely Stephen Hoiles and set up teammate Ed Stubbs for their second five pointer. With another try in the second half, the man now dubbed ‘The Fire’ established himself as one player to keep an eye on for the remainder of the NRC.
Round 9 – Sydney Stars v North Harbour Rays
The Own Try
In round nine the North Harbour Rays needed a bonus point win in their match against the Sydney Stars if they were any chance to qualify for the NRC finals. After the Stars shot out to an early lead, the Rays were fighting hard to get back into the game, it was then everyone saw a worldwide rugby first in the Buildcorp National Rugby Championship.
When North Harbour Ray Mitch Lewis stole the ball from the Stars and placed it on his own line, referee Ian Smith believed he saw a Star player reaching out and scoring a try. After going upstairs and replays clearly showing that it was in fact Mitch Lewis, the television match official awarded the try. With every player on the field as well as everyone in the stands and watching at home completely baffled, the NRC provided the first (and hopefully last) ever ‘own try’ in rugby history.
Semi Final – Melbourne Rising v Perth Spirit
The Melbourne Rising finished the regular NRC season sitting safely at the top of the ladder. Finishing with eight bonus point wins from eight matches and a points difference of 215 the Rising were undeniable favourites to cruise past the semi-final and win the inaugural NRC. However after only three wins in the regular season the fourth placed Perth Spirit had other ideas.
The Spirit only scraped into the top four by one point, lost convincingly to the Rising in round four, and somehow managed to do the unthinkable in the semi-final. Shooting out to an early lead the Spirit never looked back, stunning the home crowd and locking a place in the inaugural NRC Grand Final. Unfortunately against Brisbane City they couldn’t repeat the effort, going down at Ballymore stadium.
For more on the 2015 Buildcorp National Rugby Championship, head to: www.rugby.com.au/nrc/