NSW Country have extended their lead on top of the Buildcorp NRC table, with a 48-24 bonus point win over Perth Spirit at Concord Oval in Sydney.
After the match couldn’t be played as scheduled at Endeavour Oval in Orange due to the heavy rain this week, the Eagles could yet be back out in the central west for a home semi-final, if the rumours are true.
Certainly, Ned Hanigan’s bonus point try after the final bell won’t hurt their chances, and the Eagles’ fifth straight win almost certainly books their place in the finals with just two rounds to play.
The Eagles registered the first points of the day, coming after 16 minutes of intense, but end-to-end play. Kyle Godwin found himself in space, and chipped ahead from scrumhalf Jake Gordon to win the footrace.
Then, only a few minutes later, Gordon took advantage of a broken Perth defence line from a quick tap to streak away, before finding Reece Robinson on the inside run to race away and score under the posts. Tayler Adams’ second conversion had Country out to a 16-0 lead in the space of just four minutes.
It started raining tries soon after, with Perth centre Ben Tapuai crossing in the corner from a wonderful counter-attack back near halfway, and then Gordon in for his second try for the Eagles, after Robinson chipped inside for him.
Perth fullback Manihera Eden then scored next the posts from a Jono Lance chip kick from a scrum win, and with Lance converting, the Spirit were definitely back in the game at 24-16, the scoreline remaining that way until the halftime break.
The Jake Gordon show continued after the break, when the scrumhalf found himself starting and finishing a set play and scoring under the posts after some beautiful lead-up work with several inside passes.
Both teams looked to lift their intensity in the second half, which probably lifted the error rates for both sides, but didn’t do anything to change the attacking mindsets.
Perth centre Ammon Matuauto found himself scoring from a Lance chip kick in the 62nd minute, but as was the case all game, NSW Country hit straight back when Gordon made yet another break before flicking a pass on his outside for Kyle Godwin to score. Adams’ fifth straight conversion made it 40-24.
The Spirit side threw everything into the closing stages of the match, opening the Country defence up several times, only for the last option to let them down. But based on today’s performance, it’s hard to see them not playing a role in the final series in a few weeks’ time.
NSW COUNTRY EAGLES 48
Tries: J. Gordon 3, R. Robinson, K. Godwin, N. Hanigan
Cons: T. Adams 6/6
PERTH SPIRIT 24
Tries: B. Tapuai, M, Eden, A. Matuauto
Cons: J. Lance 3/3