Fourteen tries, 100 points, four yellow cards and two red cards only told part of the story of the day as the Macquarie Uni North Harbour Rays went down 63-37 to the University of Canberra Vikings at Pittwater Rugby Park on Saturday.
The Rays third home game of the season was played out in front of a healthy crowd of close to 3,000 at Rat Park and for long stretches of the game they were within reach of a major upset against the table-topping boys from the nation’s capital.
The locals even got the first try of the match on the board when Reece Hodge crossed after eight minutes after the Rays had hammered away at the Vikings' line for much of the opening stanza.
Debutant winger John Porch then used his speed and anticipation after he was thrown into the clear by a no-look flick pass from Harry Bergelin to keep the Rays ticking over and when Dennis Pili-Gaitau went over shortly after they were 24-8 up after 20 minutes.
But the experience and class of the Vikings’ pack – where they must have had a seven kilogram advantage per man up front - kicked into gear at that stage and by the time halftime had come around three tries saw the visitors with their noses in from 26-24.
None of those tries were from great endeavour but the influence of training fulltime with the Brumbies that most of the visiting side had just told.
The Vikings then drew first blood after the break with another try from a rolling maul to Rory Arnold, but every time that the visitors struck the Rays seemed to have something left in them.
Tries to Michael Adams and John Porch once again, followed to bring then Rays to within two points of the Vikings, but the bulk and Super Rugby experience of the Canberra boys showed and the score eventually blew out to 63-37.
Head coach Geoff Townsend praised his side for their endeavour particularly in that first half.
“We spoke before the game about having pride in the way that we played not just the result and you could see that out there from our guys,” Townsend said.
“Of course they weren’t happy with the final result but I think they can be happy with some of the skills that they showed under pressure out there against a team that had a hell of a lot more experience than us.
“We played a fair bit of footy out there and some of the tries that we put on were very classy and well constructed.
“The Vikings were more intent on playing us at the scrum and lineout which is fair enough but you’ve got to admit that we have some pretty good footballers in our midst. They got out there and had a go, ran the ball.”
The game was marred by the sending off of Rays’ prop Nick Fraser and his Canberra protagonist Tyrel Lomax for punching and the sin-binning of four players – two each from either side.
The sin-binning of Vance Elliott in the second half saw the Rays’ rally in the second half have the wins taken out of it and that saw Frankie Fainfo grab two later tries that blew the scoreline out.
The Rays have a short turn around this week and will play the Greater Sydney Rams at Pirtek Stadium next Thursday night. This match will be shown live on FOX SPORTS Channel 502.
UC VIKINGS 63 (Jarrad Butler 2, Jerome Niumata, James Dargaville, Ita Vae, Rory Arnold, Nigel Ah Wong, Frankie Fainfo 2 tries; Christian Leali’ifano 6 conversions) d MACQUARIE UNI NORTH HARBOUR RAYS 37 (Reece Hodge, John Porch 2, Dennis Pili-Gaitau, Michael Adams tries; Hamish Angus 4 conversions) at Pittwater Rugby Park, Sydney.