NRC: Round two Sunday games: Five things we've learned

by Brett McKay

It was a cracking day of action in the Buildcorp National Rugby Championship on Sunday, with a couple of teams making statements with big wins, and a fairly heavily favoured side finding out the hard way just how close the best teams in the competition are.

1. Father’s Day at the footy

Is there a better way to celebrate Father’s Day than with a day at the rugby?

No, no there’s not, and it was great to see all the kids at both Sunday games, with Dad in tow and enjoying all there is to love about our wonderful game.

The game in Canberra saw a wonderful crowd in early to see the local Under-18 Grand Final being played as a curtain raiser to the NRC game between the Vikings and NSW Country, with the early crowd rewarded with a great game played in bright sunshine, and with a try after the bell delivering a 25-24 win for St.Edmunds College over Daramalan College.

2. Rugby pulls it’s socks up for a great cause

Over the course of the weekend, all four home sides – Sydney Rays, Brisbane City, Melbourne Rising, and the University of Canberra Vikings – wore pale blue socks in support the awareness of prostate cancer in Australian men.

The Buildcorp NRC, the Australian Rugby Union (ARU), and Astellas Pharma Australia teamed up with the Prostate Cancer Foundation Australia (PCFA) to launch #Pass4Prostate across the weekend, and all social media posts including the hashtag triggered donations to PCFA.

And clearly, the players loved getting involved too, which was wonderful to see.

3. The pros and cons of the fast start

The two Country sides both jumped out to big leads in their respective matches in Melbourne and Canberra, but what happened in the second half was a big contrast between Queensland Country and NSW Country.

Queensland Country led 32-16 over the Rising, but couldn’t maintain their tempo and allowed the home side to build momentum and eventually post 30 unanswered points to secure a remarkable 46-32 win.

NSW Country, on the other hand, picked right up where they left off from their 30-0 halftime lead, and racked up another thirty unmatched points in 21 minutes to completely blow the University of Canberra side off the park.

What you do in the first half is one thing, but how you follow that up after the break is what really matters.

4. A mixed day for Wallabies hopefuls

Thirteen current and recent Wallabies squad members were in action this weekend, but plenty of those who took the field on Sunday had a fairly hard time of it.

Rob Simmons scored Queensland Country’s first try in Melbourne, but wasn’t able to stamp his authority on the match as the Melbourne Rising forwards dominated the contest. Simmons’ Country, Reds, and Wallabies teammate James Slipper had a frustrating afternoon too.

It was a frustrating NRC debut for Wallabies prop James Slipper. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyHanson only played 18 minutes, though, after coming from the field in the opening stages after a head knock.

In Canberra, lock Sam Carter was well and truly outplayed by young Waratahs and NSW Country opposite Ned Hanigan, while Rory Arnold and Henry Speight were also on the wrong end of the Vikings’ annihilation at the hands of the Eagles.

5. Young punks taking the next step

While their better-known teammates mightn’t have quite enjoyed things as they hoped, it was notable to see the performances of some very promising young players standing out.

Isaia Perese and Conor Mitchell were prominent as Queensland Country jumped out to their early lead, while impressive Rising and Australian Under-20s centre Sione Tuipulotu scored a bustling try amidst his side’s comeback in the second half.

In Canberra, and though Jordan Jackson-hope had some nice touches for the Vikings, it was hard to separate lock Ned Hanigan and flanker Rowan Perry as the best players on the ground.

Hanigan gets through a mountain of work, while Perry plays a lot like Michael Hooper and arguably might be even more effective at the breakdown.