Eagles in box seat for finals berth

by Brett McKay

An incredible round of NRC results is complete, with NSW Country ticking all the boxes they needed to in order to finish the weekend in fourth spot on the ladder.

The Eagles’ seven-tries-to-three, 47-19 bonus point win over Melbourne Rising sees them leap-frog Brisbane City and Perth Spirit, and with plenty of sides to be affected next weekend by Wallabies and Barbarians squad selections.

NSW Country host Brisbane City in Orange next Saturday, a match which will go a long way toward deciding which of the two teams qualifies for the NRC Finals.

Five unanswered tries in the final twenty minutes sealed the win for the Eagles, with winger Alex Gibbon crossing for a hat-trick.Jack Maddocks and the Rising were blown away late. Photo: VRU MediaThe Rising took the lead early and shortly after halftime through winger Kitione Ratu, but Country hit back through Seb Wileman in the 58th minute, who started the passage with an intercept and finished off some nice support play in heavy traffic to score in the corner.

With the momentum shift definitely on, the Eagles continued to push home their advantage in attack, with Gibbon crossing in the corner for his second try of the afternoon in the 64th minute.

Play was halted for around twenty minutes with Rising lock Alex Toolis taken from the field in an ambulance as a precaution, but Melbourne reported late in the game that he had full feeling in his limbs, with the club confident he’ll be cleared of serious injury.

After the resumption, NSW Country put themselves into bonus point range in the 74th minute, when former Wallabies and Randwick hooker Adam Freier scored from the back of another well-executed lineout drive, and Gibbon then sealed the win with his third try just before the final siren.Alex Gibbon notched a hat trick for the Eagles. Photo: VRU MediaEarlier, it was the Eagles on the scoreboard first, with hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa crashing over on the back of another successful Country lineout drive. Tayler Adams’ conversion had the visitors out to an early lead.

The Rising’s defence held solid from there and they were able to start building pressure and asking questions of the Country defence themselves, with fullback Jack Maddocks crossing for the home side in the 27th minute.

Country were in again just before the break, with Gibbon finishing off a passage that started with some Jake Gordon brilliance from a scrum back in the Eagles’ half. Adams converted, and just as it looked like that would be the halftime score, Melbourne sent former Australian Sevens star Henry Hutchison over for his first NRC try.

Jack McGregor’s conversion sent the teams to the sheds, with NSW Country leading 14-12 at halftime.


Rising 19

Tries: J. Maddocks, H. Hutchison, K. Ratu

Cons: J. McGregor 2

Eagles 47

Tries: A. Gibbon 3, B. Paenga-Amosa, S. Wileman, J. Gordon, A. Freier

Cons: T. Adams 6