Brisbane City’s star-studded lineup finally reaped some NRC rewards on Saturday with a 61-40 win over the Rays on Saturday.
City has been winless in a tough start to the year against the Drua and the Force but their team stacked with Super Rugby looked a step above Sydney in Woollahra, scoring six tries to half-time and nine overall.
The Rays, to their credit, didn't go away and actually won the second half but it was a case of too little too late after City's dominant opening 40, built on a superstar front row and some smart attacking play.
Brisbane's offloading game, from the backs and the forwards, kept every attacking chance alive for City and that was one of the major differences between the sides in the end.
Quade Cooper had his best game of the NRC season so far and his kicking was on point, with seven from eight off the tee, but was also the victim of the team’s repeated offences with a yellow card in the 57th minute.
On a tough afternoon for the Rays, the return of Jack Dempsey was a major positive for Australian rugby.
The flanker was injected in the 49th minute and immediately made some strong attacking runs, making it through unscathed in his first game since October 28 last year.
Sydney winger James Kane nabbed an intercept for the Rays and sprinted away for their first real attacking but was pulled down by Lachlan Maranta as City really began to build the pressure.
Maranta scored in the ninth minute off a slick inside pass and City had the first score before Cooper went himself in the 15th minute, dodging three defenders to crash over the line.
The Rays answered immediately with a barnstorming run from tight head Shambeckler Vui but Maranta had a double before the half-hour mark, breaking the line to score City’s third.
A maul gave City their third of the day and also sent prop Shambeckler Vui packing with a yellow card.
The Rays had another with 10 to go, with Damien Fitzpatrick crashing over for the hosts to keep a semblance of hope alive.
Karmichael Hunt made a critical break in the shadows of half-time putting City in a strong spot again.
An inside pass from Phoenix Hunt to gave no. 8 Sam Wallis his first try of the afternoon and City began to turn the screws in with the Rays a man down after Vui’s yellow card.
Inside centre Matt Gordon had one two minutes later as they broke the game open before half-time giving them a 30-point advantage at the break.
The Rays found some joy in the 47th minute as lock Nick Palmer scored their third and kept the second half competitive.
The scoring slowed down after that and repeated infringements saw Cooper sent to the bin amid what was a generally strong performance for the enigmatic flyhalf.
A late flurry of tries - two to City and three to the Rays- blew both scores up but had little impact on the final result.
Young flanker Fraser McReight was effective off the bench for City, particularly in the breakdown, among an impressive Brisbane backrow performance
Both sides will have some injury concerns with City winger Jayden Ngamanu and young flanker Patrick Morrey coming off early while Rays no. 8 Patrick Sio and captain Damien Fitzpatrick also left the game early and replacement back Will Harrison hurt himself scoring the final try of the afternoon.
The Rays have their next game on Wednesday, taking on the NSW Country Eagles at Leichhardt Oval and Brisbane City travels to Melbourne to face the Rising.
Sydney Rays 40
Tries: Vui, Fitzpatrick, Palmer, Short, Clements, Harrison
Cons: Kane 4
Yellow Cards: Vui (27’)
Brisbane City 61
Tries: Maranta 2, Wallis 2, Gordon 2, Cooper, penalty, McReight
Cons: Cooper 6
Yellow Cards: Cooper (50')