NRC: Round Three Sunday: Five things we learned

by Brett McKay

Two very different results to complete Round Three of the National Rugby Championship, with Brisbane City and Canberra playing out a 42-40 thriller at the Uni of Queensland, while Perth Spirit were in cruise control, thumping Greater Sydney 61-17 at McGillivray Oval in Perth.

1. Points fest at UQ

Maybe it was because they followed the third round of the AON Uni7s series, but the Brisbane City v Canberra NRC game that followed certainly followed the attacking rugby script.

Twelve tries in all, and with both sides going try-for-try over the last 45 or so minutes ensured the crowd hanging around after the UQ women claimed their third straight Uni 7s round were entertained all day.

And both City and the Vikings will have a couple of entries for the Round Three Try of the Week, with Tom Banks’ speed sure to feature, and City flyer Ed Fidow’s run allowing centre AJ Alatimu to score the second of his double from a long way out.

Rugby entertainment, brought to you by the NRC.

2. Banks v Fidow: how do we arrange it?

The speed of Banks got everyone’s attention early at UQ, with the Vikings fullback travelling so quickly for his first try that he finished up on the athletics track – of all places – that surrounded the ground.

But Fidow’s break in the lead-up to Alatimu’s second try quickly reminded everyone that Banks might be the quickest after all.

A match race, you say? The closest we got was late in the game when Banks did indeed run Fidow down, leading Fox Sports’ Gareth Wasik to conclude, “Fidow over 50 metres, Banks over 100.”

Let’s get this sorted before the year’s out.

3. Cooper shows his class

The return of Quade Cooper to the Brisbane City side was as immediate as it was obvious, with the Reds and Wallabies flyhalf adding precisely the kind of ability and experience you’d expect of someone of his standing in the game.

Cooper played the way he always does – he might even say it wasn’t anything particularly special – but his natural game immediately meant that City could play a lot flatter, with a lot more width, and the Canberra Vikings defenders had to work a lot harder than in their previous two games this season.

Cooper also kicked six from six from the tee, a nice turnaround from last week, where City could only raise the flags once from two attempts.

The question now will be how often does Cooper pull on the City jersey? Could he be on a Perth-like management plan of home games only?

In which case, the bye next week and two away games to follow means we won’t see Cooper again until October 15, when City host Melbourne Rising at the home of Wests Bulldogs in Brisbane in Round 7.

4. Spirit master the man-management

Perth have always been proactive on the player management front, especially when it comes to Super Rugby-contracted Western Force players coming off the back of an already long season.

At the time, there was even a train of thought that suggested the policy of leaving the contracted players at home for away games might even have cost the Spirit the inaugural NRC title in 2014.

Regardless, it’s clear the Spirit have adopted ‘home game’ and ‘away game’ squads again this season, entirely their prerogative, of course.

The difference might be that in 2017, their ‘away’ squad players are more than capable of matching it with the best club players around the rest of the NRC, and they could definitely sneak wins on the road.

And if they can finish in the top two and secure finals hosting rights, then suddenly, their defence of last year’s NRC title will be looking very healthy indeed.

5. A good big man will always beat a good little man

Except when the good little man adjusts his technique on the go, and starts dropping the big man for fun, and with monotonous regularity.

Rams and Waratahs winger Taqele Naiyaravoro had a significant weight and size advantage over Perth Spirit and UWA's Clay Uyen going into the game, and after the big winger swatted Uyen away at their first coming together, you sensed the NRC debutant might have been in for a rough afternoon after winning a gameday call-up, replacing an ill Peter Grant.

But Uyen reacted perfectly. After the aforementioned swatting, Uyen was quickly back on his feet and chased Naiyaravoro down from behind, in the process unlocking the formula to stopping the 128kg behemoth.

From that point, and for the rest of the game, Uyen just went low, and brought Naiyaravoro to ground throughout the game by wrapping the arms around big Taqele’s sizable ankles and holding on, felling the big winger repeatedly, and effectively shutting down the one remaining attacking advantage the Rams had, on a day where their attack otherwise didn’t feature.

It was a remarkable defensive performance from a player giving up easily more than 30kg in the contest.

But a reminder to all the smaller kids out there that if your technique is right, you can stop anyone that comes your way.