Our man on the ground, Delphy, went to the Spirit v Rays game for us and did this match report.
“The enemy advances, we retreat; the enemy camps, we harass; the enemy tires, we attack; the enemy retreats, we pursue.”
The North Harbour Rays channel Mao Tse-Tung to record an impressive win against the more fancied Perth Spirit
Morning showers and the threat of a storm meant a smaller than anticipated crowd for the first Spirit Home game of the NRC season. However, just before kick off the clouds parted and the sun shone down on McGillivray Oval, resulting in ideal conditions for rugby.
The vocal crowd would have been well pleased with the side’s “spirited” opening with Tessman continuing on from his fine performance in week 1 and Godwin and Nikoro challenging the Ray’s defence with energy and pace. Indeed, the home team dominated the first 15 minutes of play but handling errors at key moments meant that points remained elusive.
Eventually the weight of possession saw the Spirit rewarded, with Richard Hardwick finishing off a rolling maul with a well worked try. Nikoro added the extras. Perth led 8 – 0 and it seemed that the preliminaries were now complete and the Spirit could contemplate a comfortable afternoon.
The Rays however had other ideas and, in a quick rejoinder, Josh Holmes picked off a loose pass before streaking away to score under the uprights. Angus converted, leaving the scores tied up at 8 – 8.
The Perth Spirit continued to enjoy dominance for a time and Mocenacagi scored out wide to restore the home sides advantage at 13 – 8. However the visitors again replied quickly with Northam scoring on the Rays left flank 13 – 13.
During the first 25 minutes what limited possession the Rays had been able to scrounge had come, in large part, from the home teams handling errors and poor discipline. But the worm was beginning to turn and Perth Spirit would come to rue their failure to capitalize on early superiority.
With Tessman yellow carded, the home team was playing with 14 men and the Rays were beginning to play energetic and committed rugby. Just before the break the visitors endeavor was rewarded, with Killingworth powering through the defensive line to score before Angus extended the lead to 21 – 13.
If the Spirit were hoping that half time would provide a circuit breaker, they would have been sorely disappointed. The Rays continued exactly where they left off, mixing it with the home team before Killingworth again drove through the defensive line to score. Angus made good the conversion and North Harbour were out by 29 – 13.
Perth Spirit fought back, answering with tries to Hardwick (again off the back of a maul) and Konelio, reducing the margin to 29 – 26.
Having put themselves back into the match against a resolute opponent, the Spirit could ill afford a second yellow card but at 55 minutes Angus Cottrell earned referee Andrew Lees displeasure and the home team again found themselves a man down.
Sensing the opportunity, the Rays began to lift the tempo, playing confident, fast paced rugby against a stretched and tiring defence. The last third of the game saw North Harbour control proceedings with tries to Hunting and Rorke just reward.
The final whistle had the visitors deserved victors by an impressive 45 – 26.
Overall this was a game of thirds. Spirit dominated the early part of the game but failed to build scoreboard pressure. The Rays’ swelling confidence saw them go toe to toe with the home team in the period bridging half time, whilst the final portion of the game belonged to North Harbour who ran out the game with real energy and sparkle.
The Game Changer
I am going to cheat and nominate 2. Yellow cards to Tessman and Cottrell robbed the Spirit of momentum at key points of the match and the Rays took full advantage. The home team will need to improve their discipline if they are to challenge for finals.
The G&GR MOTM
In a very even Rays’ performance across the park, scrum half Josh Holmes stood out with his energy and control.
Oz Baabaa Watch
For the home team, tight head prop Jermaine Ainsley produced a powerful performance whilst Richard Hardwick at openside was busy, and deserved his two tries. For the victors winger Alex Northam showed plenty of ability whilst backrower Sam Ward was again highly prominent.
North Harbour Rays 45 (Boyd Killingworth 2, Harry Rorke, Alex Northam, Josh Holmes tries; Hamish Angus 5 conversions) defeated Perth Spirit 26 (Richard Hardwick 2, Maalonga Konelio, Sevuloni Mocenacagi tries; Ian Prior, Albert Nikoro conversions)