Brisbane City beat Perth Spirit in NRC opener - Green and Gold Rugby
Brisbane City NRC

Brisbane City beat Perth Spirit in NRC opener

Brisbane City beat Perth Spirit in NRC opener

It has been a very crowded week for Queensland rugby fans  and the NRC hasn’t been given a lot of air with the Reds possibly jumping the shark by re-signing Richard Graham as coach for 2016. Some fantastic initiatives were launched this week as part of the NRC including the Horan-Little Shield and the Australian Barbarians to play New Zealand Heartland XV in November, so the ARU have been listening to fans and looking to the future of Australian rugby.  The Grand Final rematch was a good way to open the NRC 2015 season with a host of Reds players in the Brisbane City team against relative unknowns in the Perth Spirit team.  A returning coach in Nick Stiles against a first time NRC coach Tai McIsaac.


The Match

The Brisbane City team was certainly stacked with Queensland Red players, and it was evident that Nick Stiles was looking to test combinations for the Reds 2016 season.  The back line for Brisbane City is essentially the back line for the 2016 Queensland Reds – Frisby, McIntyre, Kerevi and Hunt.  Tai McIsaac had brought over a solid but relatively untested team and it was his back row that looked to be the most interesting and would provide the most challenge in this opening round match.

The ball was quick from the start and it moved easily around the City backs before the first test of both scrums.  The scrum in 2014 had been a real strength of Brisbane City in 2014 and it was interesting to see how it would fare without Faagase and with the introduction of players like Cadeyrn Neville and Scott Higginbotham.  The Spirit scrum, while lacking the Super Rugby experience of City’s players, certainly stood up to the pressure and throughout the match did not allow the City scrum to dominate.

After the match Brisbane  Nick Stiles agreed, “I was really worried about their back row, Angus Cottrell, Kane Koteka and Chris Alcock are all guys I have coached and I have a very high regard for and I knew they would be hard on the ball”.  The Spirit back row certainly took the opportunity to slow the ball down and bring it back to their pace and forcing Brisbane City to respond on their terms.

The first twenty minutes were punctuated with some cool-headed passing and speedy footwork from Sunnybank fullback Junior Lalofi and he made several breaks before eventually punching the ball through to Karmichael Hunt who crossed under the posts for his first NRC try.  The NRC is absolutely vital for Hunt to hone his on field skills and build some solid combinations before the Reds 2016 season.  After very little game time in 2015 because of suspension and then injury Hunt will be looking to build his rugby credentials and silence some of the doubters.  The conversion was successfully slotted by Jake McIntyre who will undoubtedly be auditioning to start at 10 for the Reds, over a possible imported flyhalf.

Brisbane City certainly created many chances throughout the match and Perth Spirit defended well out wide for most of the match, covering players effectively and not often getting in the position of having to make desperate tackles.  Spirit didn’t however have much of an answer when City went hard and straight up the middle – this will be something that undoubtedly Stiles will push for more of from his team and McIsaac will work hard to tighten up to increase a pretty solid defensive effort.

Photo credit: Chloe Krause

Photo credit: Chloe Krause

The highlight of the match came in the 28th minute when Brisbane City captain Liam Gill and Junior Lalofi tag teamed a try for 70m – it was a joy to watch as these two players trusted one another 100% and timed their passing to avoid the Spirit defence.  If you haven’t seen it, watch it here.

Heath Tessman for the Spirit absolutely led from the front and was everywhere in defence and made a couple of solid linebreaks, he will be instrumental to building a solid 2015 campaign for the Spirit.  In the shadow of half time some fantastic attacking work by the forwards and a great rolling maul saw Kane Koteka cross for his try, converted by scrumhalf Ian Prior.

The sheer speed of Spirit winger Sevuloni Mocenacagi was impressive throughout the match, and particularly in the second half as the Spirit locked up the ball and controlled the match for extended periods.  It wasn’t so much risky moves by City that resulted in turnovers, it was more that the Spirit appeared to be hungrier and more cohesive for this time, but the bench coming on for both teams shifted the rhythm a little bit and this will be a focus of both teams as the build new combinations over the next few weeks and the bench integrate more smoothly into the flow of the game.

The try in the 50th minute to Samu Kerevi was the result of quick ball of the back of a scrum, and he powered over the line for City’s third try, converted by McIntyre.  Perth Spirit hit back only minutes later with some solid phases on the City line before Angus Cottrell crossed in a mass of bodies – it was a great try for the Spirit, built on the back of their persistence and some solid forward work.

Photo credit: Chloe Krause

Photo credit: Chloe Krause

Brisbane City flyhalf Jake McIntyre crossed in the 72nd minute to put the match out of reach for the Perth Spirit team and replacement back Henry Taefu kicked the conversion.  Both teams however continued to drive for the line with reserve scrumhalf for City Tim Smith making an absolutely desperate tackle on the tryline to hold out the Spirit again.

This first match was far less of a try fest than most NRC matches in 2014 which had been a focus of many of the coaches in their planning and preparation – an opportunity to work on their defence and restrict the opportunity for bonus points to be scored.  Tighter defence will make for more even matches and while less points were scored the ball certainly flowed freely, so I don’t think we are in danger of the NRC becoming a stodge-fest!  With Alex Gibbon and Lalofi, both 7s players in the City squad we should expect to see some explosive running and more impressive tries.

Both teams have a lot to take from this match, and while City won the match I think Spirit punched above their weight and both coaches should be happy with the result but also the work ahead of them.

Brisbane City 29 (Karmichael Hunt, Junior Laloifi, Samu Kerevi, Jake McIntyre tries; McIntyre 3 conversions) defeated Perth Spirit 16 (Kane Koteka, Angus Cottrell tries; Ian Prior 2 conversions) at Ballymore Stadium, Thursday 20 August 2015. 

Crowd: 2,698


The Game Changer

The try Gill to Junior, back to Gill and then on to Junior to finish was 70m of magic that had the crowd on their feet.


Junior Lalofi tooks some great chances and made some great chances in this match and his footwork was a wonderful thing to watch.  Stiles spoke very highly of Lalofi, “He lit that first half up, he was absolutely outstanding”.

Oz BaaBaa Watch

Junior Laloifi

The Details

Crowd: 2698

Score & Scorers

Brisbane City: 29
Tries: Hunt (21); Lalofi (28); Kerevi (50); McIntyre (72)
Conversions: McIntyre (21, 51); Taefu (73)
 Perth Spirit: 16
Tries: Koteka (36); Cottrell (56)
Conversions: Prior (37, 57)

Cards & citings

Yellow: Heiberg (11)


  • It was a great game to watch on TV but I have concerns about City defending their trophy after last nights display. Then again I haven’t seen any other teams play yet. Hunt, Junior Laloifi and Thomson the second rower stood out for me. And Liam f Gill had his usual masterful performance. Perths ruck work was outstanding I lost count of how many turnovers they won.

    • Intruder

      I would say there is questions about the City title defence but only due to the depth they have lost. However they will improve, most of them haven’t played since the last Reds game. Also Stiles said after the match that they only had there full squad together for one training session.

      Kerevi has been in camp, Gill overseas with the World XV, Caydern Neville and Alex Gibbon down on Sydney and players returning from niggling injuries including Kuridrani, Frisby and Hunt.

      Not the cleanest start but then again who plays there best football first game into the season

    • Tangawizi

      I think they’ll be happy enough to take the win at this stage . Remember Melbourne put 79 points past them at Ballymore last season & still went on to win it.

      Hopefully Tongan Loki’s injury isnt too bad. Thought Criff went well in his brief spell.

    • RobC

      Me too Sully. Same concerns. esp 2H scrums. We shall see!

  • Huw Tindall

    Healthy crowd??? Anyone know if I can stream the games from the UK? Legally of course. Would love to get behind the NRC.

    • Gottsy

      I spent a good half hour looking at that this morning- didn’t find anything, even tried my mate’s foxtel go login details but it doesn’t work outside Australia.

      • Sharon

        If you use a VPN, you can get around geo-blocking. Hola is free and Malcolm Turnbull says it’s perfectly legal :-) Can be used on Android phones (pretty sure you’re farked if you have an iPhone) and I use it on my pc (paid version costs around $5 p/m)

  • Julesie Bolwell

    LFG must surely be the most underrated player in world rugby. He has it all and still cant get a gig with the wobbs!

    • SuckerForRed

      Guess it just shows the quality & depth that Australia has in the Openside flanker department.

  • Troy

    Went along to the game last night, seemed alot less people than I remember at last years opener and was wondering if that had anything to do with the RG announcement?

    We got a few of us together and got an open air box which was good. Nothing like third degree burns on you tongue from a hot meat pie, an eski full tinnnies and some good rugby to get over the work week!

  • Tomthusiasm

    Great game, if Perth can hold on to the ball a bit more they’ll be tough to beat.

  • Roscoe Tims aka Lance Free

    The game was entertaining enough although it had a ‘Sevens’ feel to it early on. Some of the rugby was shapeless but I guess you get this with new teams seeking combinations. For Brisbane, Prince Laloifi was terrific, I liked Kuridrani’s impact from the wing and Taefu had punch when he came on. The No 4 (Thomas) did plenty of hard graft and looked the goods around the park. Gilly was a level above everyone else. For Perth, the forwards as a group with Tessman leading the way and Mocenacagi impressive. All up a good start.

  • Sharon

    I wasn’t disappointed with the game. There were some bloody good hits that would have made me cough up my spleen and the Junior & Gilly Show was a thing of beauty. There’s also that added bonus of being a weeknight game- good for those of us who work weekends & other unsociable times. Well worth a John Flynn to watch.

  • John Tynan

    I really enjoyed watching that game of footy, and highlighted to me why I’ll be supporting NRC where I can. There were two aspects for me, the footy and the telecast.
    With the footy, that game looked as good as the ITM games I’ve seen over the last few years. While it still verged on the helter-skelter, initial impression is that things have tightened up, and I don’t reckon the pace was far off a S15 game. Perth scrum more than proved adequate, with at least two scrum penalties over the regarded Brisbane scrum.
    On the telecast side, it’s more the fact that I could see it at all. I’m currently up on a mining camp outside Mt Isa, and I was able to stream my Foxtel broadcast and watch it, albeit on low def, and only a couple of buffers.
    So, I’ll be lining up for games I can get to, I’ll be making sure my viewing on fox or FTA(?) is registering and I’ll be buying another round of merch to help keep it going.

  • SuckerForRed

    Reckon Corey Thomas could be added to the Baabaa watch. He had a good game. Seemed to be climbing out of the rucks more often than not and did some good work in the lineout.

    Late in the game was McIntyre taken off and Frisby moved back to 10 for Smith to come on? I seriously hope they are not trying to turn Frisby into a 10 or a utility player. Although not your “traditional” scrumhalf he has the potential to become a bloody good one but if they keep friggin’ around with him he will end up like Ben Lucas. A good player who just doesn’t quite fit anywhere.

    From a Spirit point of view it was good to see Heath step into the captains role and do so well. Personally I would have named him my MOTM. Good runs, good lineouts, good scrums, good defence & good ruck work. Well rounded performance from the old boy. (Kidding Tessy. I know you are young compared to me.)

    Also – How big is that bloody winger?! I was watching the game with an AFL person and they made the comment that he ‘looked like an AFL player’. I would have to agree. Wonder if he can jump like one.

    Over all I found the game a bit messy, but I am guessing that will tighten up with time. I did not realise that the City team had only been together such a short time.

    Boy it is good to have rugby back!

  • SuckerForRed

    Oh….. Great article Kate & well done Chloe on the pics. I will get that list to you before Sunday.

    • Sharon

      Are you coming down for the game?

  • Kiap

    Good rugby. Defence was very solid in the first half, particularly from the Spirit, and the Perth scrum went well. The City lads put some combinations together as the game opened up. Thanks Kate and Chloe for article and pics.

  • robbo999

    A really enjoyable game to watch, especially as I did not care who won (although for some unfathomable reason I started to get behind the Spirit as the game wore on). If only they had not dropped so much ball, especially in the first half, I think the game would have turned out differently

  • robbo999

    Oh I forgot – Go Rising on Sunday

    • RobC

      Shield is up for challenge. Country will target Rising lineout, though Luke Jones is on. Too bad Lolo is injured, then it would an even better match.

  • RobC

    Hi Kate, thanks for the report. Just saw the replay from KL
    VPN on Fox works pretty well. that means I can blog games. Fun! Perth were awesome. Hardwick, Kandy Kane, the force front rowers and backrowers. Dane HP is injured, and Burton got injured at 2′. So Prior had to move from half to 5/8. Scrums were excellent though I thought the Ref let them pack too low for the first 3 or 4.

    Thought K defence was v good. Saved couple of tries and key breaks.Setup the backs well, good offloads and took space when needed. Hope his forms continues to develop

    Samu K. This man is fantastic. Marked heavily at the beginning, and was clear close to the end, why it was so. Has an excellent pass and puts his backs through gaps both in traffic and wide. I hope the Reds allow him to express. Because if he does, it will change the makeup of the WBs, for the better.

    JakeMac. He kicks well. That is all we need.

    What about Tongan Loki? Surprise packet. Likewise the starting City locks. Soooo goooood to see Pett on the field. Ready played better than the Hospital Cup grand final. Thankfully.

    In any case, I suspect if Dane HP and Adam Coleman was on, City would have been in more trouble.

    Looking forward to the DEBUT of Richie Arnold, tomorrow. Ahh Rory, should have been booked on the plane to US I reckon. Or Adam C.

Brisbane City NRC

Arty-farty. Loves rugby. Good cook. Contrary. Is a New South Welshwoman who has never supported NSW. Only has eyes for the Reds. Likes raspberries and that intense mustard-yellow most people don't.

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