NRC Sunday: Five things we learned

by Sam Phillips

The first round of NRC is in the books and what a round it's been.

There were 47 tries scored in the four matches and plenty of those were long range efforts, delighting the crowds that turned out in force.

So, what are we talking about after the Sunday double header?

1. Perth bolt out of the gates

Perth packed a punch against the Rebels. Photo: WalmsleyThe reigning premiers flew out of the gates in front of a huge McGillivray Oval crowd and didn't look back.

They were up 14-0 inside five minutes and while the Rising scored plenty of points of their own, they never got in front at any point.

This Spirit team has a strong core of Force stars and their performance on Sunday was one of a team that has played plenty of football together.

The passing was crisp, the defensive spacing was solid and the set piece thrived before the reserves entered the fray.

If they can maintain the level of performance they produced the Spirit will be playing finals football once again in 2017.

2. Rising youth to the fore

Jack McGregor was one of the Rising young guns that starred. Photo: WalmsleyThe Spirit were outstanding but the Rising, who are jam packed with young talent, pushed them all the way.

They never got in front but they certainly didn't roll over, keeping the Spirit honest with a series of superb tries.

While it was largely experienced heads that starred for the Spirit, it was clear today that young guns will carry the Rising's hopes in 2017.

Jack Maddocks' performance was one of a future star, Jack McGregor impressed with his boot at No. 10 and Sione Tuipulotu formed a burly combination with Hunter Paisami in the centres.

Add the impact Jordan Uelese had off the bench and you have five players, all aged 20 or under, that will provide a spine for the Rebels in the near future.

3. Rams make their mark

Mack Mason and the Rams carved the Eagles up. Photo: Karen WatsonThe Eagles went into this clash as hot favourites, having dominated throughout the regular season last year before falling at the final hurdle.

But the Rams, led by a masterful Mack Mason performance at flyhalf, were far too strong in this Sydney derby.

This was a statement from the Rams, who haven't featured in the finals since the NRC's inception.

While Mason was the star it was the performance of their forward pack that set the platform.

The Eagles had no answer for Jed Gillespie, Hugh Roach and Jed Holloway, the Rams trio that led the battle for ascendency up front.

4. Eagles fail to fire a shot

The Eagles burst out the gates this afternoon, scoring 13 points in the opening 10 minutes, but when the pressure was applied they folded.

The defence was well below par, as the Rams dominated the tackle, rolled over the gain line and released their backs for the rest of the afternoon.

They have the bye to reflect on this loss and their forward pack in particular will need to respond with a big performance in Round Three.

5. Perth crowd packs a punch

The Spirit implored WA rugby fans to turn out in force on Sunday afternoon and they answered the call.

The McGillivray Oval hill was packed with 4000 faithful fans and they were treated to a superb game of footy for their troubles.

This was, of course, a show of solidarity as the Force fight their battle in the Supreme Court but regardless of motive, it was superb to see such a strong crowd as the reigning premiers started their title defence.