Queensland Country have consolidated their National Rugby Championship top four berth, with an ultimately comfortable 57-31 win over the Greater Sydney Rams in Sydney.
The Rams pulled the margin back to nine points late in the second half, before Country sealed the win with three more tries, including yet another to winger Filipo Daugunu, who became just the fourth player to score four tries in an NRC match.
Nick Phipps was making his NRC debut for the Rams, but it didn’t start well for the Wallabies scrumhalf, when Queensland Country flyer Filipo Daugunu intercepted a bullet pass and ran it in from 80 metres for the perfect opener against the run of play.
Country’s set piece looked to apply the pressure early, and won three successive full-arm penalties five metres out. The Rams pack held solid, but not their line defence, with Queensland skipper Duncan Paia’aua sliding over out wide. James Tuttle’s second conversion made it 14-0 after ten minutes.
Queensland Country lost prop Taniela Tupou to the naughty chair in the 15th minute for a shoulder charge, and only a minute or two later from another penalty, Phipps made up for the earlier indiscretion, scoring under the posts from a quick tap.
The numbers were evened in the 21st minute, with Rams winger Taqele Naiyaravoro earning a yellow card for a deliberate knock-down. Country took advantage of his absence on the left edge, with Chris Feauai-Sautia crossing soon after. Country then extended their lead to 26-7 in the 28th minute, when Izaia Perese showed incredible strength to carry four Greater Sydney defenders over the line with him.
Penalties went back and forth before Greater Sydney used their pick and drive to great effect, with hooker Hugh Roach staying low and driving hard to score. The teams went into the sheds with Queensland Country leading 26-12.
Country started the second half perfectly, with Daugunu in for his second straight away. Jed Holloway broke out for the Rams but threw a loose ball and allowed Feauai-Sautia to counter and break away up through the middle. He didn’t have the pace to finish, but threw a great pass for the man who could, Daugunu scoring in the 41st minute. Tuttle’s fourth conversion made it 33-12.
Daugunu and Tuttle repeated the dose in the 48th minute, with the winger in for number three after Paia’aua pulled off a steal and Feauai-Sautia and Caleb Timu got nice offloads away, to push the score out to 40-14.
The Rams needed to score next, and back to back penalties again helped, with right winger John Grant crossing in the corner from another Phipps quick tap. When centre Denis Pili-Gaitau scored from first phase ball in the 57th minute, the Rams had pulled the margin back to 14 points.
It was back to nine points when Kotoni Ale scored for the Rams after a Jed Holloway pass through the legs, but Country hit straight back from the restart, when Daugunu swooped on another intercept to race away for his fourth try of the afternoon
Country lock Harry Hockings added to the intercept fun, pinching another Phipps pass mid-flight from a defensive lineout to score in the corner, and Jock Campbell’s try in the corner on the bell confirmed the final 57-31 scoreline.
Tries: N. Phipps, H. Roach, J. Grant, D. Pili-Gaitau, K. Ale
Cons: M. Mason 3
Cards: T. Naiyaravoro (21’)
Queensland Country 57
Tries: F. Daugunu 4, D. Paia’aua, C. Feauai-Sautia, I. Perese, H. Hockings, J. Campbell
Cons: J. Tuttle 6
Cards: T. Tupou (15’), F. Daugunu (57’)