NRC: Rays semis-bound after third straight win

by Brett McKay

The Sydney Rays are within reach of securing a maiden Buildcorp National Rugby Championship semi-finals appearance, following their 30-22 win over Queensland Country on the Gold Coast.

Four tries either side of half time put the Rays in a commanding position, and despite two late tries to Country late in the game, they held on for a four tries to three win and remain unbeaten after three rounds.

“Yeah it was [a slow start], and plenty of opportunities left out there, both sides would probably say the same there,” Rays captain Matt Lucas said immediately after the match.

“But we got out to a good lead in the second half, and we did struggle a bit towards the end, but we’re very happy to come up here and take the points.”

The game was a bit of a wet-weather grind beyond the first twenty minutes, and neither side could hold possession long enough to mount the phases and build possession in the slippery conditions.

James Tuttle's side remains on anchored to the bottom of the Buildcorp NRC ladder. Photo: Sportography.The home side started finding the ascendency through their impressive scrum, and when it looked as though a penalty try might be the reward for the Country pack, livewire outside centre Izaia Perese stepped through plenty of traffic down the short side to cross for the first six-pointer of the game.

The Rays battled to get into the game, but got the break they craved when Australian Sevens star Cameron Clark made a break on the counter attack, before putting speedster Richard Woolf away down the right-hand edge.

Rays backrower James Brown offloaded nicely for lock Nick Palmer to stride over minutes later, with the ex-NSW Country Eagle scoring his first NRC try for his new club. Two conversions from Rays skipper Matt Lucas saw the Rays head to halftime suddenly up 16-8.

After the break, it was the Rays who began stringing the phases together impressively, and after sustained attack, Woolf strolled over for a very simple second try in the 48th minute.

Centre Irae Simone looked to have won the race to a grubber kick through after 16 phases of play from the Rays soon after, only for the TMO to rule that he knocked on in the grounding of the ball.

Angus Sinclair was really starting to stamp his authority on the game, and after he made a wonderful break back on halfway, it was Brown who crossed from the next phase, pushing the Rays ahead 30-8 with Lucas’s conversion with fifteen minutes to play.

RIchard Woolf got two tries in wet conditions on the Gold Coast. Photo: Sportography.

Queensland Country narrowed the lead, with Bond University flyhalf Mitch Third crossing for a try on his club rugby home ground, and converting nicely from out wide to bring the score back to 30-18.

Country fullback Tom Banks also crossed late in the game, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Rays taking the win.


Tries: I. Perese, M. Third, T. Banks

Cons: M. Third 2/3


Tries: R. Woolf 2, N. Palmer, J. Brown

Cons: M. Lucas 3/4