Reigning Buildcorp National Rugby Championship premiers Brisbane City have successfully defended the Horan-Little Shield at the first attempt, after a hard-fought but high-scoring 44-36 win over the Western Sydney Rams at Ballymore Oval.
In a see-sawing affair in beautiful sunshine at the home of Queensland rugby, both sides went back and forth for the whole game, with whatever points one side could put on the scoreboard quickly equalled by the other.
A first NRC six-pointer for former Wallabies no.8 Leroy Houston after halftime, and a double to Brothers flyer Mitch Felsman – the first of them a genuine try of the year candidate from nearly 95 metres out – were equalled by impressive work at close quarters by Rams backrowers Tyrone Viiga and Taunaola Kei in a second half that went from one end of Ballymore to the other.
City’s defence held strong in the last seven minutes to see out the game, and retain the Horan-Little Shield for the first defence of 2016.
“We just worked hard for each other,” Brisbane City Captain Sam Talakai told Fox Sports post-match, on how his side got the job done over a gusty Western Sydney team that came at them all day.
“That was area we lacked last week, and I thought the boys really dug deep.
"We didn’t really have a specialist second rower on the bench, but we had to make do with what we had, and to scrape away with that win is something we can build on and move forward with.”
Earlier, Rams hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa followed up last week’s double against the Sydney Rays to post the first points of the match, but Brisbane City were held up under the posts minutes later.
Soon after, where winger Alex Gibbon showed some silky skills to dot down in the corner in heavy traffic.
A shocking bounce of the ball saw the Rams unable to clean-up near their own try line, allowing Brisbane City hooker Andrew Ready to swoop on the ball, and after a quick recycle, imposing young lock Lukhan Tui wasn’t going to be stopped from close range.
Rams winger Fabian Goodall had to be carried off on a stretcher, after Ready crashed into his leg in cleaning up the loose ball.
The try-fest started in the last ten minutes of the first half, with Rams scrumhalf Scott Gale diving over, followed by Sam Talakai scoring a great forwards try for City under the posts.
Just as it looked Brisbane would take a handy lead into the sheds, Western Sydney flanker Tupou Sopoaga – brother of All Black Lima – made a wonderful break and sent Luke Smart over in the corner.
Three tries all and 22-20 in favour of the home side was a fair reflection of an entertaining first half, but it would prove to be just the warm-up act, with the second half netting another five tries.
BRISBANE CITY 44
Tries: M. Felsman 2, A. Gibbon, L. Tui, S. Talakai, L. Houston
Cons: J. McIntyre 3/4, M. Felsman 1/1, P.James 0/1
WESTERN SYDNEY RAMS 36
Tries: B. Paenga-Amosa, S. Gale, L. Smart, T. Viiga, T. Kei
Cons: P. Asquith 3/5