The Sydney Stars recovered from an early deficit to beat the Rays (Image: Getty)
THE Macquarie Uni North Harbour Rays have shown some bright touches at times but went down to the Sydney Stars 29-45 in their Buildcorp National Rugby Championship opener at Manly Oval.
The Rays scored four tries throughout a torrid 80 minutes of helter skelter football but paid for the middle part of the game where they had little ball and virtually no field position.
The day started brightly for the Rays when they scooted out to a 13-0 lead thanks to tries to Alex Northam and Mick Adams along with a conversion to Hamish Angus.
But once the Stars, who relied heavily on the combinations they have in the classy Sydney Uni first grade side, started to get some possession at the right end of the field they piled on the points.
Tries to Stars skipper David Hickie, Jake Gordon, Harry Jones (a Ray last year), Tom Robsertson and Dave Dennis saw them wipe out the 13 point defecit and head into halftime with a 13-37 lead over the Rays.
The halftime chat by the coaching team headed by Geoff Townsend must have worked wonders though as for large blocks of the second half the Rays looked cohesive and classy.
Tries to Tom Hill and Josh Holmes pulled back the defecit to 29-37 at the 15-minute mark of the second half but the Stars were able to score what was a significant blow when replacement hooker Tom Coolican scored a vital five pointer.
Head coach Townsend said his side would be much better for the outing.
“And we will have to be,” he said. “There are certainly no easy games in this competition as you know.
“The short nature of our preparation and the fact that the Manly guys in our squad have had such a draining last couple of weeks was a factor out there.
“But the more time that we spend together the better we will become and the road trip to Perth will be good for us to come together as a group.”
Scrumhalf Josh Holmes was probably the stand out player for the Rays along with centre Michael Adams and flanker Jack Dempsey.
Sam Ward was another to keep up the workrate that he is renowned for at club level while Mark Johnson had a rumbling game at lock.
When he came on Ed Gower was another who looked the goods and he will be pushing for a star this coming weekend against the Perth Spirit.
Sydney Stars 45 (Dave Hickie, Jake Gordon, Harry Jones, Tom Robertson, Dave Dennis, Tom Coolican tries; Angus Roberts 5 conversions) defeated Macquarie Uni North Harbour Rays 29 (Alex Northam, Mick Adams, Tom Hill, Josh Holmes tries; Hamish Angus 3 conversions) at Manly Oval