Brisbane City didn’t have it all their own way despite a scoreline that indicates an easy victory.
Whilst the competition front runners won the game 61-29 over the NSW Country Eagles, and retained the Horan-Little Shield in the process, the Eagles had the premiers under the pump in a cracking first half of rugby.
NSW Country Eagles entered the match as clear underdogs without gun players Andrew Kellaway, Ned Hanigan, Tom Staniforth, Dashville Kuate and Mark Baldwin, amongst others. A late change to Brisbane City saw them start the game without their inform skipper, Liam Gill, with Waita Setu pulling on his 7 jersey.
The Eagles played with cunning and purpose from the start of the match and were rewarded with a try to winger Jack Pennington in the corner, followed soon afterwards by another to hard-working openside Pauli Tuala. The Eagles were dominating territory and had executed well to take a 13-nil lead after only 14 minutes.
Brisbane City stayed in touch thanks to a try to No 8 Scott Higginbotham who found his way through a driving maul and across the line and Jake McIntrye add the three points to make the score 13-8 after 18 minutes.
The Eagles hit back pretty quickly, however, with Tuala snagging his second by powering through the City defense for another 8 pointer to give the Country lads a 21-8 lead to the surprise of many of the enthusiastic Brisbane crowd. Tuala was having a wonderful game, together with his backrow partners of Sams Figg and Croke. Waratah lock forward, Sam Lousi was also running rampant and off-loading delightfully to cause plenty of concern amongst the Brisbane defenders.
However Brisbane’s own free-running lock, in Carderyn Neville, would soon reduce the margin with a very strong run down the middle of the field to powerfully charge his way over for an important try next to the posts. The resultant conversion meant City were edging closer to the Eagles, down just 21-24.
But the moment of the match came just on half time when Karmichael Hunt finished a wonderful team try created from numerous off-loads to what seemed like a never ending supply of City support runners. The converted try would prove crucial as it put Brisbane in front for the first time in the game – a position they didn’t relinquish for the rest of the match.
The second half would be a continuation of those last few minutes of the first as Brisbane City ran amuck. Nick Frisby had the fans on their feet with a scintilating run early but was denied the try. The Eagles were however penalised and the Fresh Prince of Ballymore, Junior Laloifi would continue his try scoring spree this season to cross in the corner. McIntyre converts and the score is 32-21.
Just minutes later Chris Kuridrani would cross for his first try of the match on the opposite wing and another McIntyre conversion would see the score all of a sudden blow out to 40-21. Kuridrani benefited by some classy work from his partner-in-sublime Samu Kerevi, but it would be Kerevi himself who would score the next two tries, in opposite corners of the field. McIntyre kicked the first, but missed the 2nd for his first miss of the day and the result was basically in the bag with Brisbane up 53-21.
Brisbane City cleared the bench for the last quarter of the game and the Eagles scored a consolation try through their replacement Brogan Roods only for City to score another wonderful effort to their own replacement outside back, Alex Gibbon. Yet another McIntyre conversion would see the game finish up at 61-29 and give Brisbane yet another bonus point victory, ensure they kept the Horan-Little Shield as well as their spot on the top of the ladder.
The Game Changer
The beautiful team try to Brisbane City’s Karmichael Hunt right on half time meant that the home team would head to oranges with a tight lead and a level of belief that comes from a try created by great team work. It was the catalyst for a dominant second half in which the team combined brilliantly for a number of tries, running away to score 37 points in the last 40 minutes.
The G&GR MOTM
A number of Eagles would have been in contention if they had managed to continue their first half play (Lousi, Figg, Tuala). Likewise few Brisbane players were able to stamp their class on the game in the first. Kerevi, Frisby, Setu and Neville showed their class at times, but the stand out was probably Scott Higginbotham who produced his best performance of the NRC, running freely and being prominant across the park.
Oz Baabaa Watch
The Eagles were well served by their two try-scoring flanker Pauli Tuala, his backrow comrade Sam Figg and hard working lock Nick Palmer. Jarome McKenzie also looked dangerous from fullback. For Brisbane City Waita Setu wore the 7 jersey well whilst Junior Laloifi continued his try scoring record and ignited a number of attacks.
Score & Scorers
Tries: Samu Kerevi 2, Scott Higginbotham, Caderyn Neville, Karmichael Hunt, Junior Laloifi, Chris Kuridrani, Alex Gibbon.
Conversions: Jake McIntyre 7.
Tries: Pauli Tuala 2, Jack Pennington, Brogan Roods.
Conversions: Jono Lance 2, Dave Harvey.
Feature Image credit: QRU/Sportography