Brisbane City sting North Harbour Rays in NRC Round 4 - Green and Gold Rugby
Brisbane City NRC

Brisbane City sting North Harbour Rays in NRC Round 4

Brisbane City sting North Harbour Rays in NRC Round 4

Brisbane City are on a roll with three wins from three, and are defending the Horan Little Shield at home for the first time, against the North Harbour Rays.  The Rays have lost some key players this week (Ward, Johnson and Gower) so it is a great opportunity for some of the club players to take a step up.  It will be a tough ask for the Brisbane team, who played the most physically intense game of their season so far against Queensland Country only four days ago.

The Brisbane City pack is the best in the competition (and should be with Nick Stiles as coach) but with Luke Holmes and Boyd Killingworth continuing to impress for the Rays it was going to be an interesting hit up between the two – City’s front row is huge with Matt Mafi starting for the first time this season.   

The Match

The first try of the night came on the back of a concerted effort by City on the Rays’ tryline and some scrambling defense by the Rays which forced a scrum 5m out.  The Rays angled in and the Hoff awarded a penalty try, converted by Jake McIntyre.   The pack weight difference certainly came into play here and in future scenarios – the raw talent and doggedness of the Rays forwards was contained to some extent by the sheer size of the Brisbane City pack.

It wasn’t long before City had their second try on the board following some brilliant running by Higginbotham and Gill.  Higgers broke through the Rays defensive line with comparative ease to gain 30m before finding Liam Gill who offloaded to Frisby who did well to flick it back to Gill whose momentum saw him crash over.  This was some great play by City and the Rays had no response – I know I am a biased Queenslander, but bugger me having three solid 7s at Wallabies level means it was always going to be a tough call to exclude Gill with play like this and his ability to force a turnover and be that little/big niggle.

Mika Tela, the hero from the Souths premiership winning team was over in the 18th minute thanks to some great moments from Karmichael Hunt.  McIntyre missed the conversion (not the last one he would miss tonight) and these uncharacteristic misses put City under a reasonable amount of pressure at some points in the match.  City need to tighten up their kicking looking at Round 3 and Round 4 missed conversions – as the NRC matures and teams focus more on defense to try and contain the massive tryfests that were the signature of last year, missed conversions will become increasingly important.

The Hoff wasn’t copping any bollocks from the teams and showed Pili-Gaitau the yellow – I have watched it again, and I get it was foul play but I don’t see the yellow.

Photo credit: Chloe Krause

Photo credit: Chloe Krause

The Rays built up some possession on the back of Killingworth stripping the ball from Frisby.  Josh Holmes scored a fabulous solo try for the North Harbour Rays with Pili-Gaitau still off the field to get first points on the board for them.   The matchups between Killingworth/Gill and Frisby/Josh Holmes were great – none of the players totally shut down the other.   Yes the Brisbane City players had the edge on the Rays players but I think the Rays are building some nice depth that should see them finish the NRC strongly – converting close loses into wins.  The Rays need to tighten up their defense a little bit – too many missed tackles cost them with a team like City who will run away with it.

The Hoff controlling the match was always going to have an impact and the discipline of both teams certainly left a lot to be desired with easy yellows given away.  Higginbotham was  yellow-carded in the shadow of half time for holding on to Killingworth – a little bit of a brain snap really.  Nick Stiles was not at all happy with the discipline on the field for the match, “Higgers is a Wallaby and is better than that, at half time he wasn’t at all happy with his performance there”.

Karmichael Hunt continues to build his time on the field and reading of the play after a choppy season for the Reds.  He was instrumental in setting up tries several times throughout the match, not least the try to Liam Gill just before half time.  Watching him in both the centres and at fullback, I think he might be a little better at fullback, but that then potentially pushes Laloifi to the bench and I think he is more than a finisher.  Thankfully, not a problem for me – good luck with that one Stilesy!

The Rays scored an absolute scorcher just after half time with Alex Northam putting his foot down to score in the corner – it caught the City defense napping and was converted by Angus.   Brisbane City need to be more clinical in their defense if they want to wrap up back to back NRC titles.  Stiles agrees, “the performance tonight was really disappointing, we didn’t close anything out”.

Ill discipline had the biggest impact on this match as Pili-Gaitau was shown a yellow in the second half which meant he was off with a red in the 49th minutes – I think both yellows were a little extreme, which meant that the red looked a little disproportionate.

Alex Northam carved up the field once again to make a massive break for the Rays but just couldn’t bring it home – his 7s background means he is wicked fast and he needs his fellow backs to step up and follow him – he was caught a little isolated and a try went begging.

Photo credit: Chloe Krause

Photo credit: Chloe Krause

The Brisbane City backline worked well with the forwards for a great team try in the 58″ minute to put Kerevi under the posts, Hunt again instrumental in this.  City and the Rays traded tries and the Bergelin crossed for the Rays and Hodge converted while Gill was in the bin to put the score at 34-29.  It was now that City needed to put their foot down to avoid losing to a team they spanked last year 77-26.  Frisby took advantage of a loose take from a lineout to almost fall across the lineout in the easiest try of the night.

The full-time hooter sounded but Brisbane City used the opportunity to get Kerevi across the line again for this second try of the night. Henry Taefu just slotted the conversion and City finish with four wins from four and retaining the Horan Little Shield.  12 tries were scored, but neither team were happy with their performance but some young players are stepping up really well, and I think the Oz Baabaas side will have a great amount of depth when we head across the ditch.


The Game Changer

I think the red card to Pili-Gaitau allowed City to close out the match.  Without this the North Harbour Rays could probably have kept the pressure up City for much of the second half – it was scrappy from City and the Rays have shown they know how to capitalise on that.


A tough one between Liam Gill and Karmichael Hunt for my mind – great support play from Hunt and Gill’s yellow mean that K takes it out.

Oz Baabaa watch

Alex Northam, Mika Tela and Junior Laloifi all showed depth and strength.  With 12 tries scored it was a night to celebrate the backs.

The Details

Crowd: 2000ish

Score & Scorers

Brisbane City: 55

Tries: Frisby; Gill 2; Kerevi 2; Laloifi; Tela; Penalty Try
Conversions: McIntyre 3/5; Taefu 2/3

North Harbour Rays: 29

Tries: Josh Holmes; Northam; Hill; Bergelin
Conversions: Angus 3/4

Cards & citings

Yellow – Pili-Gaitau; Gill; Higginbotham
Red – Pili-Gaitau

Match Highlights (courtesy of FOXSPORTS)

  • Pedro

    Great review Kate. I think the Rays did well to keep it as close as they did. They looked a little outclassed but rallied well. Josh Holmes try was really opportunistic and timely, I fell like without that any margin was possible.

    Even though it was high scoring I thought the quality of the rugby was incredibly high and the way the players have been instructed to play with the ball in hand makes the NRC a great product that the public will love as it gets more exposure. I think they put a stat up in the broadcast that 100 tries have been scored this season and one penalty goal.

  • Chinese Dave

    First of all, thanks for the review!

    A few points came to my mind last night.
    Firstly, Brisbane have a real quality about them. Even when the Rays were getting close, you never felt like they had a chance of coming away with the points. BC just seem more polished and look like a SR team almost.

    Secondly, it was really good to see so many Reds and Rebel nee Reds playing in their positions and playing well. Who would’ve thought it could be done? Certainly not RG.
    Thirdly, I haven’t watched that many games, I really only catch the TV ones and this was my third. They’ve all been very high scoring affairs. It seems like it’s much harder to organise a proper, tight, defence than it is to organise a free flowing attack. Makes you appreciate what you see at SR and Test level a whole lot more.

    • Patrick

      First, if they “look like an SR team almost”, it’s probably because they are ;) Which is what makes this tournament so great for Australian rugby, the club player finish the year so much more ‘match-ready’ for SR call-ups, as guys like Campbell Magnay and Super Sefa and McMahon and Stirzaker demonstrated.

      Also, guys like Hunt get a real crack at learning the details of the game (dare I say, without the handicap of being coached by RG).

      Second, hard to organise a defence… !! Remember Australia basically won every single trophy in the world on the back of taking a leap forward in defence.

      Attack at the end of the day can be pretty intuitive – watch any Islander team, they don’t spend hours practicing attacking structures, but they can sure as hell run a support line and anticipate the ball.

      Defence is communication, discipline and practice, rinse and repeat until the players can’t stand up, add a bit of desperation.

  • Roscoe Tims aka Lance Free

    Gill outstanding & if I was Stade Francais I’d be throwing many euros at him (for 2016 Top 14)
    Hunt growing and maturing into rugby – sharp footy brain
    Taefu really, really solid + potential
    If Neville replicates this form for the Reds, then he’s a plus
    Lagi Setu’s brother had a productive match @ No 6 too.
    My word, that Northam has some pace and evasive skills?
    Shame we didn’t see more of Sam Lane

    • RobC

      Yep. K is a smart player.

      Caderyn expressing himself. Hope the competition for locks will ger the Reds firing

  • GoMelbRebels

    I think it’s 4 wins from 4. Definitely the team to beat this season.

  • Simon

    I’m finally able to watch the NRC (got the Sports package back on Foxtel ahead of the RWC!) and this was the first game I watched – what a great game.

    Hunt had a blinder, he was my MOTM too. You’d expect guys like Gill and Higgers to be star performers at this level, but Hunt did not have a good Super season, and neither did JOC. The fact Hunt is up there with guys like Gill and Higgers I think really shows how much the Reds’ backline was hamstrung this year, guys like Hunt and JOC just weren’t getting enough good ball to show what they could do.

    It’s interesting that City is basically the Reds minus their internationals, yet there’s a completely different feeling to the team coached by Stiles instead of Graham. I just want to cry when I think of next season, and all the potential we have at the Reds (as evidenced by Brisbane City) that’s going to be wasted under that stupid coaching structure.

  • RobC

    Thanks Kate. The Rays are looking good. As you mentioned, if it weren’t for the red card Citizens would have been in for a torrid time .

    Not convinced City has the best pack. Will wait for the stars gsme. Also, I think Qld country scrum is better

    City certainly finishes opportunities well. They’re like a sharp razor blade.

  • RobC

    Yeah, some sharp passes against a rush D, was good to watch. Forwards too

  • RobC

    cheers Reg. Gonna check out the game

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.

More in Brisbane City NRC