NRC: Day two: Five things we've learned

by Brett McKay

The Buildcorp National Rugby Championship delivered two enthralling Sunday games to complete the opening round of the competition.

Sydney Rays held on to beat the Western Sydney Rams 50-30 in a high-scoring affair at North Sydney Oval, while Queensland Country found out just how good the University of Canberra Vikings will be in 2016, losing 58-20 on the Gold Coast.

Is white the new yellow?

The NRC has always had a bit of a love affair with yellow and orange and most shades in between, but a new kind of colour clash played out at North Sydney Oval.

The Rays have tweaked their wonderful harlequin strip in 2016, with white and yellow now the predominant quarters. The Rams home kit is orange, but they were in their predominantly white away kit. Adding to the confusion, the Rays also had their white shorts, while both sides also wore white socks – as did referee Will Houston!

It’s a first world problem, for sure, but just when we get away from the yellow/orange issue, it was hard to get away from the irony of the clash.

The Rays and Rams had very similar kits on Sunday afternoon. Photo: Getty Images.

Raining tries at North Sydney!

There were no clouds in the sky, but it was definitely raining tries on the hallowed ground. After the two games on Saturday yielded just ten tries in total, the Rays and Rams got us right back out to the competition average, with seven tries in the first forty minutes and another four in the second half.

It also rained cards, however, with Rays and Waratahs flanker Jack Dempsey earning two yellow cards for cynical infringements, the second late in the game becoming a red card which may yet have further judicial implications for the backrower.

Richard Woolf scored a double for the Rays in their 20-point win over the Rams. Photo: Getty Images.

Momentum can be a fickle beast

The tries seem to come in bursts for both sides at North Sydney Oval, with the momentum going back and forth and all over the place.

The Rays scored three tries in the first 14 minutes, but then just as they were looking like building on their advantage, the Rams suddenly dominated possession and scored two tries themselves in the next fifteen minutes.

Both sides then enjoyed ten minutes of domination and two tries each either side of half time, before the Rays ultimately controlled proceedings and the ball for the final period, scoring two more tries themselves to wrap up the game.

It goes to show that the eight-point converted tries mean that teams are never really out of the contest, even when it feels like they are. And it doesn’t take much consistent possession to swing the momentum wildly.

Brandon Paenga-Amosa's double wasn't enough for the Rams. Photo: Getty Images.

Vikings prove set piece still rules

Scrum and lineout domination has long been a goal of NRC sides, and the University of Canberra Vikings showed why it is such a valuable commodity in their eight try to three demolition of Queensland Country on the Gold Coast.

The Vikings’ Super Rugby-laden pack was just too strong for the young Country forwards, and from their dominant platform, the Canberra side was able to run in tries at will. Country scored late tries to add some respectability to the scoreboard, but in reality, the Vikings had long put the cue in the rack by that stage.

Such was their dominance, it really could have been a cricket score, but a few injuries to key players – James Dargaville’s shoulder subluxation the worst of them – probably put paid to that.

The UC Vikings were dominant at the set-piece. Photo: Sportography.

Speight back on the scoreboard

It was great to see Wallabies and Brumbies flyer Henry Speight crossing for a double in the second half for the Vikings, his first tries since returning from the Australian Sevens squad and where only inopportune injuries killed off his Olympic ambitions.

The double was Speight’s first time across the stripe in the XVs game since he scored the Brumbies’ only try in their 31-11 loss to the Stormers in Cape Town, way back in the middle of March. With the Wallabies continuing to lose outside backs to injuries, Speight’s reminder of his finishing abilities could become very timely indeed. 

Henry Speight made his return to the 15-man format in round one of the NRC. Photo: Sportography.