The first Sydney based game in the NRC was marked by dour conditions and an error ridden game that picked up in the second half to see the home team smash the Rams. The estimated 1000 strong crowd sprawled out from under the little shelter that was afforded to them at Coogee with an atmosphere of intrigue in what the ARU calls “rugby unleashed”.
The kick off occurred with little fan fair as an almost immediate eagles scrum was called, this was made the theme of the day as handling errors and slippery ground made penalties a certainty. The Rams had the upper hand in possession in the first half but this was offset by their inability to gain ground; often being limited to the middle ground, and play more than 4 phases without a handling error. 17 minutes in however, Ben Volavola was given an opportunity from 40 metres out and was able to convert the penalty. Of course due to the experimental laws this meant it was the strange score of 0-2. The Eagles quickly countered when Sam Windsor was gifted a kick 30 metres out and directly in front 2 minutes later, levelling the scores.
At certain points in the match there were sparks of brilliance from both the Rams and the Eagles, but much of it was muzzled by the wet conditions and inability to retain possession. The Eagles missed an opportunity when a stray ball came out a scrum the wrong way 5 metres from the try line to have the Rams touch it down for a 22 restart. As the rain cleared 10 minutes from the end of the first half the game picked up pace but handling errors were still present to end the first half at 2-2.
The game firmed up in the second half as the rain cleared and this lead to better play. The eagles started to dominate possession in the second half which was led by their forward power. Matt Carraro seemed to emerge from nowhere 10 metres out to score 5 minutes into the second half. This was then aptly converted by Sam Windsor. A rolling maul from 25 metres out got the eagles to within an earshot of a try only to be held up. This attack was aptly defended and countered. A messy scrum within 5 metres of the Rams try line saw the rams gain possession with an impressive display from Apolosi Latunipulu that that saw them end play at the Eagles 22. However this wasn’t good enough when in quick succession Andrew Kellaway Scored off a very good run and pass from Tala Gray and Will Miller and Apakuki Ma’afu also capitalised on the Eagles second half forward dominance, scoring two more tries to bring the score up to 31-2 were it would stay.
Photos courtesy of John Biboudis www.procarlos.com
The Game Changer
The Eagles 30 metre maul was certainly a show of dominance that couldn’t be ignored. I have a feeling that their strength to come will lie in their forwards. Ben Volavola was also having a bad day and this as well as the wet weather was a detriment to the Rams determined running style of play.
The G&GR MOTM
Matt Carraro – particularly with his try was fundamental to the Eagles gaining the psychological advantage
Players to watch
Tala Gray and Apakuki Ma’afu were fantastic for the Eagles. Jed Holloway definitely had an impact on the Rams side
Score & Scorers
Cards & citings