The Sydney Rays have almost certainly secured a maiden Buildcorp NRC semi-final berth, after a completely dominant 58-14 win over the University of Canberra Vikings in Sydney.
A first half annihilation set up the bonus point win, with the Rays running in six of their eight tries before halftime, and then following it up with a superb defensive effort in the second half at Pittwater Park.
“Yeah, very proud,” Rays skipper Matt Lucas said of his players’ efforts to secure the win, particularly the defence in the second half.
“We started well, we put some of the footy we’ve been trying to produce in weeks gone by, and put in some long patches, too, which we’re really happy about.”
“It’s a big challenge for us now to go down to Melbourne against a quality side before the Finals,” Lucas said, of the Rays task next week.
Vikings coach Wayne Southwell spoke on Friday of his side playing with a renewed defensive focus, but his midfield fell off tackles all too regularly as the Rays’ backs ran amok.
The Rays opened the scoring through no.8 Michael Wells diving over untouched from the base of a scrum, but it came after fullback Josh Turner had a superb try disallowed after a TMO check found he’d put a foot on the touchline in the act of grounding the ball.
It properly rained tries for the next ten minutes for the Rays, with hooker Damien Fitzpatrick crossing for a double, winger Harry Jones running away, and Turner eventually getting on the board too in the 29th minute.
Matt Lucas had converted four of the five Rays’ tries to this point, with the Rays suddenly out to a 38-0 lead and the Vikings having flashbacks to the first half thumping at the hands of NSW Country in Round 2.
Worryingly, the Vikings midfield was being carved up, with the Rays making tackle busts and line breaks for fun through some paper-thin defence.
They did finally get some ball though, the Vikings, and some nice work from Robbie Coleman saw flanker Jordan Smiler cross for Canberra’s first points.
The Rays weren’t content though, with Turner strolling through the Vikings midfield again to score behind the posts, sending them to the sheds leading 46-8.
Second half tries to Angus Sinclair and a second to Jones secured the big win, while replacement hooker Connal McInerney scored the only Vikings’ points after the break, despite numerous opportunities.
The Rays will take on Melbourne Rising in Melbourne next week, while the Vikings will be playing for their season, with their match against Perth Spirit quite possibly a playoff for the remaining semi-final place.
SYDNEY RAYS 58
Tries: D. Fitzpatrick 2, J. Turner 2, H. Jones 2, M. Wells, A. Sinclair
Cons: M. Lucas 5/7, A. Sinclair 0/1
UNI OF CANBERRA VIKINGS 14
Tries: J. Smiler, C. McInerney
Cons: N. Jooste 1/1, A. Horan 0/1