NRC Round 3 Preview - Green and Gold Rugby
National Rugby Championship

NRC Round 3 Preview

NRC Round 3 Preview

The NRC continued to produce high quality rugby last weekend with the Force and NSW Country remaining the only teams with two wins, while Brisbane City are undefeated however with a draw in Round 1.  The Force started last round with a super impressive away win over the Drua – just their 2nd loss at home since they joined the NRC two years ago.  NSW Country had a strong win over the Rising in the unlikely surrounds of Adelaide, while the two Queensland teams had big wins in a double head on the Gold Coast.  The table now looks like this:



In this lightning quick season, week three becomes very crucial.  Losses for some teams could all but end thier season, while wins will allow them to fight another day.  Let’s take a look at what we’ve hot coming up this weekend.


Saturday 14 September at Woollahra Oval (Sydney). Kick-Off 12:00pm (Local Time)
Hamish Stewart scores

Hamish Stewart has been impressive at 12 for QLD Country

Reasons Not To Miss The Match:

  • This is Sydney’s first home game of the year and it will be played on the relatively foreign (for the Queenslanders at least) artificial surface in Woollahra. The bigger question than whether Queensland Country will cope playing on ‘plastic’, is whether anyone will be there to see them do it.  The Queensland clubs have done a great job of harnessing their supporter base to get along to experience the NRC, with GPS timing their round 1 host with their junior trophy day. Will Easts be able to pull off something similar?
  • One of the unheralded heroes for QLD Country in their surprising win over the Canberra Vikings last weekend was their inside centre, Hamish Stewart. It would seem to many that with the emergence of Isaac Lucas and the return of James O’Connor, that Stewart’s spot in the Reds time (as tenuous as it has been this season) may be in danger. However in a relatively unusual position of inside centre, he has excelled thus far in the NRC. He’s always loved the physical stuff and this aspect of his play seems more suitable at 12 than flyhalf or fullback. We still get to enjoy his kicking, passing and running game which makes him a standout candidate for the position come next year’s Super Rugby season.
  • Josh Kemeny has been one the best for Sydney in their winless season so far. The hard working flanker, part of the Australian Under 20s squad last year, hasn’t taken a backward step. He’s been moved to number 8 this week, to mark this years Junior Wallaby 8 in Harry Wilson.  When Kemeny was named the Waratah Youth Development Player of the Year last year, there was another award presented that year – the NSW Suburban Representative Player of the Year. The winner of that award is the player that will wear the 7 jersey this year, Charlie Gamble. A wonderful example of the melting pot that is the NRC.


1 Rory O’Connor, 2 Ed Craig, 3 Charles Abel, 4 Ryan McCauley, 5 Tu’itakau Kioa, 6 Lachlan Swinton, 7 Charlie Gamble, 8 Joshua Kemeny, 9 Jacob Abel, 10 Will Harrison, 11 James Ramm, 12 Harry Burey, 13 Lalakai Foketi (c), 14 Cameron Clark, 15 Jaline Graham.

Reserves: 16 Declan Moore, 17 Tom Osborne, 18 Wayne Borsak, 19 Jack Digby, 20 Jordan Goddard, 21 Christian Poidevin, 22 Mitch Short, 23 Tyson Davis.


L, L.


1 George Francis, 2 Matthew Faessler, 3 Gavin Luka, 4 Angus Blyth, 5 Harry Hockings, 6 Jeremiah Lynch, 7 Angus Scott-Young [c], 8 Harry Wilson, 9 Tate McDermott, 10 Rohan Saifoloi, 11 Joey Fittock, 12 Hamish Stewart, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 14 Filipo Daugunu, 15 Jock Campbell.

Reserves: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Carter Ozanne, 18 Bronson Fotualii, 19 Dillon Wihongi, 20 Connor Pritchard, 21 Liam Dillon, 22 Dan Boardman, 23 Tom Lucas.


L, W

TIP: QLD Country were fantastic against the Vikings last week and should continue to roll this week. QLD by 16


Saturday 14 September at Viking Park (Sydney). Kick-Off 2:00pm (Local Time)
Blake Enever

Blake Enever and Darcy Swain are back to take on Brisbane

Reasons Not To Miss The Match:

  • I, for one, was caught by surprise by the QLD Country win over the Vikings last week. Not that I didn’t think Country were a decent team, just that the Vikings looked excellent.  The 23-36 loss to a rookie filled QLD team would have been a shock to the system to a Brumby-laden squad.  Expect a massive statement to be made this weekend in what will be their first home game of the season.
  • On the flip side, this encounter will determine if Brisbane are legitimate finals contenders. A first round draw against the Drua was somewhat dulled when the Force pumped the Fijians in Suva the following week. Similarly a big win over a depleted Sydney team is not exactly enough of a performance to book the post Grand Final celebrations just yet.  But there is still plenty to like about this outfit. If they can get over the Vikings in Canberra, well then that will be a true statement of intent.
  • The Vikings backrow has long been a key part of their NRC success. The quality remains this week, albeit without recruit Will Miller.  Despite the selection of rookie Luke Gersekowski, it still features two test players in Pete Samu and Rob Valetini.  The QLD Country backrow, and in particular Harry Wilson, had the better of the encounter last week and the Canberreans will come up against another dynamic QLD backrow trio this week, led by the exceptional Fraser McReight. Samu and Valetini will have to impose themselves on the visitors to ensure a homeside victory.


1 Fred Kaihea, 2 Lachlan Lonergan, 3 Tom Ross, 4 Blake Enever, 5 Darcy Swain [c], 6 Pete Samu, 7 Luke Gersekowski, 8 Rob Valetini, 9 Ryan Lonergan, 10 Noah Lolesio, 11 Mack Hansen, 12 Irae Simone, 13 Thomas Wright, 14 Toni Pulu, 15 Andrew Muirhead.

Reserves: 16 TP Luteru, 17 Bo Abra, 18 Jake Simeon, 19 Nick Frost, 20 Angus Allen, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Bayley Kuenzle, 23 George Morseu.


W, L.


1 Ruan Smith, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 3 Josh Nasser, 4 Bradford Kapa, 5 Adam Korczyk, 6 Michael Wood, 7 Fraser McReight [c], 8 Sam Wallis, 9 Moses Sorovi, 10 Isaac Lucas, 11 Jordan Luke, 12 Teti Tela, 13 Hunter Paisami, 14 Ashton Watson, 15. Lawson Creighton

Reserves: 16 Sean Farrell, 17 Dane Zander, 18 Rhys van Nek, 19 Tuaina Tualima, 20 Seru Uru, 21 Connor Anderson, 22 Nick Chapman, 23 Isaac Henry.


D, W.

TIP: Brisbane have surprised me this season so far, but Canberra are too good to lose two in a row. Vikings by 2


Saturday 14 September at WIN Stadium (Wollongong). Kick-Off 4:00pm (Local Time)
Fiji Drua points the way v Brisbane City NRC 2019 (Credit Stephen Tremain)

The Drua will be looking for their first win this season

Reasons Not To Miss The Match:

  • Last year’s NRC Champions, the Fiji Drua, are yet to win a game this year. If they fail to do so this week in the Gong then you’d have to question their ability to feature in the finals again.  Alternatively, NSW Country have won two from two and sit second on the ladder. Critics have suggested it’s an underserving outcome given they have played the bottom two teams in the competition.  If they can pull off a win against the Drua, then they’ll be doing a damn good chance of proving their credentials.
  • An interesting name appeared in the NSW Country team list last week as they were scratching for players to fill jerseys on the back of the Randwick v Argentina match. Former Brumby (and Viking) back Nigel Ah-Wong was named in the centres, and it was like he’d never been away as he strolled over for a try. Ah-Wong was a prominent try scorer for the Vikings including four in a game against the Sydney Stars in 2015. He’s been spending his time in New Zealand and Japan of late, so he’s an exciting addition to this year’s competition.
  • I’ve been talking up Paceli Nacebe this season but with the Drua not quite clicking so far, they’ve rotated him to the bench. In his place is a player of high intrigue. Young Caleb Muntz joins the Drua with an exciting reputation. Born in New Zealand, with Fijian parents, Muntz has featured in the Fiji Under 20 team over recent years and is seen as a classical flyhalf option with excellent match awareness.  A match up with one of Australia’s bright young 10s will be a fascinating side story to this encounter.


1. Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2. Tom Horton, 3. Chris Talakai, 4. Pat Tafa, 5. Tom Staniforth, 6. Ned Hanigan, 7. Michael Icely, 8. Nick Champion de Crespigny, 9. Jake Gordon, 10. Mack Mason, 11. James Kane, 12. Ofa Manuofetoa, 13. Nigel Ah Wong, 14. Mark Nawaqanitawase, 15. Tim Clements..

Reserves: 16. David Vea, 17. Archer Hall, 18. Matthew Sandell, 19. Nathan Den Hoedt, 20. Will Harris, 21. Jack Grant, 22. Connor O’Shea, 23. Joey Walton.


W, W.


1.Joeli Veitayaki, 2. Tevita Ikanivere, 3 Mosese Ducivaki, 4 Tevita Naqali, 5. Tevita Naqali, 6. Eremasi Radrodro, 7. Rusiate Nasova, 8. Johnny Dyer, 9. Peni Matawalu, 10. Caleb Muntz, 11. Nacanieli Narequva,, 12. 12 Cyril Reece, 13 Poasa Waqanibau, 14. Aporosa Tabulawaki, 15. TBC.

Reserves: 16. Ratunaisa Navuma, 17. Timoci Sauvoli, 18. Jone Koroiduadua, 19. Necani Nawaqadau, 20. Jone Navori, 21. Seru Vularika, 22. Peceli Nacebe, 23. Jiuta Wainiqolo.


D, L.

TIP: The Drua have been unimpressive thus far so this is tough to tip. I think they’ll come good. Drua by 6


Sunday 15 September at University of WA (Perth). Kick-Off 3:00pm (Local Time)
Force celebrate v QLD Country NRC 2019 (Credit: Delphy)

More celebrating expected this weekend (Photo Credit: Delphy)

Reasons Not To Miss The Match:

  • It’s statement time by the Force. They’ve beaten last year’s Grand Finalists in their first two games and now face one of the least impressive teams.  They can’t afford to take it easy and need to make a real statement this weekend.  The Rising have enough in their team to cause problems, particularly with a  couple of established super rugby players bought it.  The Force, despite changes of their own, continue to look a stable outfit – an obvious benefit of their GRR lead in.
  • Is anyone from the Rising going to stand up? On paper, their pack is impressive particularly with the introduction of Rob Leota and Richard Hardwick into the backrow.  Someone needs to step up because they’ve been a major disappointment so far.  You definitely have to give some kudos to the strategy of backing local lads, in the backs in particular, but a culture of winning is important as well.
  • Jonah Placid’s return to Australian Rugby via the Force is an excellent example of their importance to the sport in this country. One of the best schoolboy players I’ve ever seen, it was tragic to see him rushed into the Reds, chase a control to the Rebels, and then move overseas.  He’s back now and a hat trick of tries last weekend shows the ability is still there. A move to his preferred fullback position this week is deserved, and perhaps the start of a move towards one day wearing the Wallaby 15 jersey. The ability is there without doubt.


1. Cameron Orr, 2. Heath Tessmann, 3. Chris Heiberg, 4. Fergus Lee-Warner, 5. Johan Bardoul, 6. Henry Stowers, 7. Chris Alcock, 8. Brynard Stander, 9. Ian Prior (c), 10. Andrew Deegan, 11 Byron Ralston, 12. Chris Tuatara-Morrison, 13. Nick Jooste, 14. Leone Feke, 15. . Jonah Placid.

Reserves: 16. Andrew Ready, 17. Harrison Lloyd, 18. Dom Hardman, 19. Jeremy Thrush, 20. Tevin Ferris, 21. Issak Fines, 22. Jake Strachan, 23. Kiti Ratu.


W, W.


1 Matt Gibbon, 2 Anaru Rangi, 3 Vaauli Faamausili, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 5 Esei Haangana, 6 Ikapote Tupai, 7 Richard Hardwick, 8 Rob Leota, 9 Theo Strang, 10 Rod Iona, 11 Lolohea Loco, 12 James So’oialo, 13 Semisi Tupou [c], 14 Nailati Ukalele, 15 Justin Marsters.

Reserves: 16 Moli Sooaemaleagi, 17 Fereti Sa’aga, 18 Tetera Faulkner, 19 William Clift, 20 Maciu Nabolakasi, 21 Pat Morrey, 22 Reece Fuller, 23 Will Lewesi.


L, L.

TIP: Force by 30.
  • Bobas

    Good to see Rob Valentini back for the Vikings, his absence was the reason they were out muscled in tight last week.

    • Brumby Runner

      Yeah, big improvement but if the back row continue to not compete for the ball at the breakdown, then Fraser McReight will have an absolute field day (again).

      • Geoffro

        Missed last weeks game but just looking at the team sheet I’d expect the vikings outside backs to run riot if they get a bit of ball

        • Brumby Runner

          Vikings didn’t get a lot of ball last week against Qld Country. Heavily penalised at scrum time and a couple of tight head wins to QldC. Backrow went missing from defensive rucks so no (maybe one) turnovers while QldC won too much ball off Vikings at rucks.

  • Brumby Runner

    Brisbane are a very good chance of beating the Vikings. They will win the battle of the front rows at scrum time and McReight will starve the Vikings of ball with numerous turnovers. These were the weak points for the Vikings last week, and I can’t see them improving tomorrow. The result could very well look the same as last week’s game against Qld Country.

    Connor Vest awarded the rising star gong last weekend. He was good, but McReight was simply outstanding against Sydney. Most exciting young forward coming through since Pocock in his time at the Force.

    Reg, on Jonah Placid, I was surprised by the extra weight he’s carrying atm. He looks like twice the size he was when last playing with the Rebels. Has he just grown bigger or does he need to trim off some condition?

    • Perth girl

      Scoring 3 tries again will help him with the conditioning!

  • disqus_NMX

    I presume that a decent slab of the best players from the Drua last year are currently in the Fiji RWC squad?

    How come NSW Country are laden with Super Rugby players, but Sydney isn’t?

    • Bobas

      Sydney always have their super rugby players selected in the wallaby squad.

      • Who?

        Others would know more than me, but I wonder, too, if the Eagles aren’t a tighter and perhaps better organized club? Of the NSW teams in the NRC, they’re the only one to have had a successful season, where a couple of years ago they ran almost undefeated through the comp. Think the only losses they had were to a previously winless Qld Country (I was there that day – great game! Thorn played half of it, Banks was great at 15…), and then the Semi…
        But they’ve had guys like Paddy Ryan (until this year) as cornerstone players – players you could build around. That has to have helped?

  • idiot savant

    Thanks Reg. The NSW Country Fiji game and the Brisbane City Vikings game should be great viewing. Im going to be interested to see how McReight goes against Samu and Valentini. I think that battle will go a long way to deciding the match. I think McReight is in for a physical test.

    Also looking forward to comparing Lolesio and Lucas. Both of these guys might be super rugby 10s next season. Ive liked Lucas so far although his out of hand kicking is erratic. Sorovi and Lucas provide a lot of speed around the rucks.

    And agree that Stewart appears well suited to 12. It looks like they are going to give him an extended run in the NRC in that jumper. At this stage you would think O’Connor will take 12 for the Reds, Lucas 10, and Hegarty 15. But as you say he will make it interesting if his form continues.

  • andrewM

    Thanks for the writeup Reg. Hoping the Hill will be completely Filled this week UWA Sports Park. A very intriguing season so far

    • Perth girl

      Lets hope Harwick keeps his fists to himself in this game!

  • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

    Home grown talent like Richard Hardwick (ex CSHS) and Ross Haylett-Petty (ex-Hale) and players that received their break at the Force such as Rangi and Faulkner will be running out for the Revels against the Force this weekend. I am also sure that the Revels will send their scouts to Perth to plunder the local talent.
    The irony is that every Force player signed up by the Eastern State confirms that RA (Eastern States) got the decision to axe professional rugby in WA terribly wrong and also endorses the private funded WA rugby player development program. Remember that RA axe the successful Force Academy program and then cut $14 million finance to WA rugby just in 2018 (I quote the Chairman of RA Cameron Clyne here). The latter figure is of course ridiculous as the Force only costs RA $4.3 million to run in 2017.
    How hypocritical from East Australia to plunder the Force players when you are not prepared to spend a cent to develop them and argue that our players are not good enough to play Superugby?

    • RugbyReg

      cool. Thanks for your contribution to this NRC discussion.

    • Perth girl

      I love the fact that you dont give up Hannes! I’ve given up as these guys couldn’t give a shit about the Force unless their team wants to sign the latest Force star. Looking forward to the WC at the rugby village in Scarborough, might see you there! I post on the SOB site as Wendy Newson, my real name!

      • Bobas

        We don’t care because we can’t do anything about it.

        It’s like whinging that Hanigan got selected last year or that Quade got paid not to play by Thorn… I chose to live in the present and ride the roller coaster of supporting Australian Rugby.

        The best roller coaster as when you think you’re at the bottom, surprise, you’re not. Wee!

  • Charcoal

    From the spectators’ perspective, I couldn’t think of a worse ground than Woollahra for Sydney to play their home games. It looks good on TV playing on the artificial turf, but NSW Rugby doesn’t give a rat’s arse for those who actually want to attend the game, where there is virtually no seating, just standing room only. It’s hardly an incentive to draw spectators.

    Even for Shute Shield matches for East’s home games it’s a nightmare finding parking and then having to stand for the whole game. I’ve vowed never to attend Woollahra again until they improve the facilities to match the standard of the playing surface, which I might add was previously one of the worst in Sydney.

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