As an Eagles fan, this one hurts. But I can’t deny it was a cracker of a match. In a classic armwrestle, Brisbane City kept their finals hopes alive with a last gasp 27-28 win over NSW Country in Camden this afternoon.
On a soggy day in front of a decent crowd in Camden, both sides came into this game having had whirlwind seasons.
It’s been a frustrating year if you are an NRC fan in NSW, and in some ways, with the Eagles looking the better of the two sides, even more so. A few times this year, they’ve come close to winning matches, only to lose in the final play. With their chance to play finals playoffs all but gone, were looking to restore some much needed pride to finish the season on a high.
For Brisbane City however, it was crucial to come away from here with points. Through several dogged performances, they had been able to finally get themselves into finals contention, and any loss now would all but ruin their chances.
With everything to play for, the teams served up a beauty.
City showed why they were the favourites for this game early, making early metres into Eagles territory before a through-the-hands effort saw Emori Waqavulagi the beneficiary of the first points of the game in the third minute. Quade Cooper stepped up with the boot and visitors were up 0-7. City continued to pound the line short afterwards, however when Jack Grant swooped on some loose ball, Jaline Graham combined to put Alex Newsome away in what was one of the best long-range tries of the season. Rohan Saifoloi however failed to convert, and the home side was down 5-7.
However, the Eagles were not to be deterred, and started to show their attacking potential through a series of dangerous advances up the field. City struck back with some phases of their own, and when Waqavulagi was held in the tackle in the 18th minute, the try-scorer Newsome was sent to the bin for a cynical offence. With an opportunity however to take advantage, City coughed up, and the Eagles were off the hook. It was to be a move that proved costly, as in the 29th minute the Eagles, through some outstanding work at set-piece, took the lead through a try in the corner to Graham. Eagles ahead, 10-7.
City however would head into the break with the lead, when Cooper sliced open the Eagles defence in the 32nd minute to put Matt Gordon in between the sticks. Cooper converted, and the visitors went into the break with a four point advantage.
Halftime Score: NSW Country 10 – 14 Brisbane City
The Eagles however had got a sniff, and came out motivated in the second half. After a lot of twoing-and-froing for the first ten minutes, Seb Wileman burst through the City defence and managed to link up with Jed Holloway, however the veteran Waratah lost the ball over the line to let City off the hook. The Eagles however would not make the same mistake five minutes later, when Jack Grant recovered from a messy line out to zip through space and score. With a conversion, suddenly, the underdogs were up by 3. Saifoloi converted a penalty goal in the 63rd minute, and the Eagles extended their lead to 6, 20-14.
The Eagles continued to look dangerous, and when Cooper made an uncharacteristic mistake off the kick-off, Sam Figg picked up the ball to combine with Wileman again, who came close to scoring a try himself. The Eagles made no mistake, with Grant combining with
Normally, I’d wish this fairy tale to end with a successful Country victory, but then a demon named Quade Cooper came and squashed my dreams. In the 68th minute, Cooper found himself in space and combined with his backline to push the Eagles to their own goal line. The Eagles scrambling defence looked to have it under control, until Patrick Morrey barged over to cut the margin back to eight. Cooper converted, and the score was 27-21.
With momentum going their way, in the 73rd minute City flung themselves at the line again, and eventually, the Eagles defence ran out of numbers as Sam Wallis scored under the sticks. Cooper converted and City reclaimed the lead by a solitary point. The Eagles tried desperately to claw back and get a chance to grab points, however when the whistle was finally blown after 80 plus minutes of outstanding rugby, that one point difference was all that mattered. God damn it.
Final Score: NSW Country Eagles 27 – 28 Brisbane City
It was, once again, the case of the one that got away for Country. After going down in the dying minutes to the Canberra Vikings a fortnight ago, they found themselves wanting again by being outplayed in the championship minutes. It was a frustrating loss, as for much of the game they had the better of the two-time champions. They can hold their heads high though, and next week will look to finish on a high when they return to their fortress at Scully Park in Tamworth to try and get that first ever win against their fellow country rivals, QLD Country.
Brisbane City got a hell of a fright today. They were ambushed by a determined outfit, but they turned to their experience in Cooper and he delivered an outstanding performance to get them over the line. With this vital win, they stay in the hunt for the top four, and will head back home next weekend. Fans in Brisbane, listen now! Next weekend, City will be in a sudden death match against the current fourth-placed team in Canberra. The winner of this match goes through to the finals. Get out there and show the team some support, because if there is any match in the NRC that truly encapsulates “sudden-death”, then this is it.
The Game Changer
This was a tough point to pick, as both sides were so evenly matched for over sixty minutes of this game. In the end, it was Cooper who proved the difference when he spotted a gap and got into open space, a move that effectively provided the momentum City needed to score the winning points.
The GAGR MOTM
Again, it was the most senior player who proved the difference on the field, and that was Quade Cooper. His excellent controlling of the troops and his flawless day with the boot proved to be the difference between the sides, a difference that keeps City’s season alive.
Rising Star Watch
NSW Country had two big standouts, the first being Jack Grant. This plucky halfback had been standing out in a lot of the Eagles most intense games, and he has proven to be a major factor in the potency of the backline. The other was Seb Wileman, who through several outstanding runs that went deep into enemy territory, proved to be a major factor in the Eagles scoring two of their tries. Special mention must go to City’s Emori Waqavulagi, who proved to be a real handful for the Eagles defence in the first half.
Crowd: around 1,000
NSW Country Eagles 27
Tries: Newsome, Graham, Grant, Gibbon
Conversions: Saifoloi (2/4)
Penalties: Saifoloi (1/1)
Cards: Newsome (Yellow, 18′)
Brisbane City 28
Tries: Waqavulagi, Gordon, Morrey, Wallis
Conversions: Cooper (4/4)