A Jake Gordon hat-trick has sparked NSW Country’s first win of the 2018 season, 33-19 over the Sydney Rays.
Gordon was at his hard-running best for the Eagles, working off a quality pack, with the three scores the icing on the cake for the halfback.
Both sides Wallabies contingent made it through the match unscathed, with Ned Hanigan putting in a solid shift for Country and Tolu Latu crossing for a try.
The Eagles front row was dominant early, with a Super Rugby quality lineup of Tom Robertson, Latu and Paddy Ryan.
That dominance turned into a one-man advantage 12 minutes in when Rays tighthead Cam Betham was yellow-carded.
It was off the back of a scrum that Jake Gordon found the Eagles’ first points, darting through the Rays defence to score.
They had their second halfway through the first half, via Alex Newsome, and the Country side began to step up.
Sydney pounced on an opportunity just two minutes later with Curtis Rona responding to his opposite number’s score.
Country lock Emmanuel Meafou was shown a yellow card in the 28th minute and though the Rays Rays had field position, they couldn’t cross the line.
Wallabies and Country hooker Latu made the most of a half-chance to stretch the Eagles’ lead before Shambeckler Vui added another spectacular effort to narrow the gap to nine points.
The Rays took advantage of a strong wind in the second half with a long kicking game putting the danger zone and Vui went centimetres short of scoring again but Ned Hanigan stole the ball and let the Eagles off the hookl
A crunching Hugh Sinclair hit on Mack Mason put the Rays back on top as they tried to close the gap before Latu put on a big stop of his own to turn the momentum briefly but Country failed to make any ground off the advantage.
For all of Sydney’s territory in the early parts of the second half, the Rays were unable to convert their opportunities, with neither side scoring able to add to their half-time score more than 20 minutes into the second stanza.
There was a late flurry of tries, with Gordon scoring his third off a quick tap before Sinclair went over for the Rays but that was the end of the scoring action for the night.
Flanker Jack Hayson was impressive for the Rays in a tight derby that relied on some big forward work rates.
The Rays host the Drua on Sunday at Concord Oval while NSW Country take on the Vikings in Armidale.
Sydney Rays 19
Tries: Rona, Vui, Sinclair
Cons: Harrison 2, Burey
Yellow cards Betham (12’)
NSW Country 33
Tries: Gordon 3, Newsome, Latu
Cons: Mason 4
Yellow Card: Meafou (28’), Talakai (80')