Country claim maiden Andy Purcell Cup

by Brett McKay

They’d never held the Andy Purcell Cup in the National Rugby Championship, but finally Queensland Country have had their moment over Brisbane City in the Queensland derby.

In front of a healthy Noosa Dolphins crowd in very typical Sunshine Coast conditions, Queensland Country were very impressive in both attack and defence in their five-tries-to-two bonus-point win.

A huge run from Country flyer Izaia Perese set the game alight in the opening minute, and the home side had all the territory in the opening exchanges.

Flyhalf Hamish Stewart scored just a few minutes later as Country took their advantage.

Brisbane City battled against Country. Photo: Getty ImagesA wonderful inside pass near the City 22 from James Tuttle saw Perese burst through a hole and score under the posts, with Tuttle’s conversion pushing Country out to a 12-0 lead 20 minutes into the match. 

Brisbane City finally held their lineout ball , and some patient forwards pick and drive looked certain to be rewarded, only for centre Maalonga Konelio to lose the ball over the try line.

The Brad Thorn influence was becoming obvious, with Country’s defence hugely impressive in the first half.

With Country on yellow card warning late in the half, the evergreen Radike Samo on debut for City, crashed over from close range. AJ Alatimu converted, to send the teams to the sheds with Country leading 12-7.

City held a strong share of the first possession, but it was Country who scored first after the break. Taniela Tupou burst through in midfield and found Tuttle on his inside, who got a wonderful offload away as he was being tackled, sending Stewart under the posts for the second try. 

Queensland Country got on top early. Photo: Getty ImagesCountry again built the pressure into the second half, helped by City’s handling letting them down in the key moments. Country started gaining territory advantage, too, and skipper Duncan Paia’aua crashed over on the hour, running a nice line off the back of a dominant Country scrum.

Minutes later, it was another addition for the ‘Tongan Thor’ highlights reel, with Taniela Tupou running onto a lovely Alex Casey inside pass and scoring next to the posts. Paia’aua converted, and suddenly Country’s dominance was reflected on the scoreboard as they led 31-7.

Paia’aua found himself in yellow card trouble in the 74th minute, with Fijian referee Tevita Rokovereni – who was very good in his NRC debut – banishing the Country captain for a no-arms tackle, forcing him to sit out the rest of the game.

A late Chris Kuridrani try was good reward after the City winger had played well all day, but it was simply too little, too late.

Queensland Country now have a bye in round three, while Brisbane City have a little bit of work to do before heading to Canberra to face the Vikings next Sunday.


Queensland Country 31

Tries: Stewart 2, Perese, Paia’aua, Tupou

Cons: Tuttle 2, Paia’aua 

Yellow card: Paia'aua (74')

Brisbane City 12

Tries: Samo, Kuridrani

Cons: Alatimu