A thrilling last-minute 38-38 draw between NSW Country in Brisbane City in Orange means the Eagles sit tentatively inside the NRC top four.
The draw means both sides finish the 2017 season on 20 competition points, and with the Eagles holding the better points differential, City’s season is over.
The draw also means Perth Spirit remain alive, ahead of their match against Queensland Country on Sunday.
Both NSW Country and Brisbane City were guilty of early handling errors as they looked to get into the rhythm of the match, and it was the Eagles who did open the scoring in the 14th minute, with hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa crossing after lock Rohan O’Regan has opened up the City defence.
Brisbane City were next on the board 10 minutes later, albeit not the way they intended.
Persistent maul and then pick-and-drive pressure was being repelled very well by NSW Country, but a Nick Frisby cross-kick found space in the corner.
Country flyhalf Tayler Adams won the race to the ball, but in deliberately knocking the ball touch-in-goal, he conceded the penalty try and copped a yellow card in the process.
The Eagles hit straight back, however, winning the restart and launching a new attacking raid. From a five-metre lineout, Country’s lineout drive was effective, patient, and powerful, with Paenga-Amosa barging over for his second. Tom Hill converted in Adams’ absence, and the Eagles took a 14-7 lead.
City took the honours late in the first half though, with the original Prince of the NRC, Junior Laloifi crossing for his first 2017 try, and then flanker Patrick Morrey scored his maiden NRC try, with a well-worked lineout drive enough for City to go to the sheds leading 19-14.
The Eagles regained the lead straight after halftime, with Paenga-Amosa in for his hat-trick from the back of Country’s best lineout drive of the match, and they extended that in the 50th minute with a penalty try of their own, with Morrey yellow carded for a maul infringement as Paenga-Amosa looked certain to score his fourth for the day.
NSW Country extended the lead even further in the 57th minute through Alex Gibbon, after Adams put Alex Newsome into space, before he found Gibbon, with the former Australian Sevens rep finishing it off from sixty metres out.
Brisbane City needed to hit back, and they did on the hour, when Laloifi scooped up some loose ball in their own half and ran it in for his second, and when flanker Michael Gunn scored from a messy lineout in the 65th minute, they’d bought the score right back to 35-31.
Country won their way back deep into City territory, winning successive penalties along the way, with Tayler Adams slotting a penalty goal to push the Eagles ahead 38-31 with five to play.
City then levelled things with two minutes to play, with Chris Kuridrani finishing a nice Dylan Riley break. Jake Strachan converted to square the ledger.
Both sides won penalties well after the final bell, but couldn’t find the points for the win, the draw leaving the door open for the 6th-placed Perth Spirit side to possibly jump into the top four with a win.
NSW Country Eagles 38
Tries: Paenga-Amosa 3, Pen, A. Gibbon
Cons: Adams 3, Hill
Cards: Adams (25’)
Brisbane City 38
Tries: Laloifi 2, Pen, Morrey, Gunn, Kuridrani
Cons: Strachan 3
Cards: Morrey (50’)