A must win match for the reigning premiers makes this a do or die match for Brisbane City and the Sydney Rays are looking to rebound from their first loss of the season.
The Sydney Rays started the game with sustained pressure on Brisbane City and their line. Con Foley made a fabulous break to take the ball over the advantage line and offloaded beautifully to fly half Angus Sinclair to set the tone for their half – fast, relatively free-flowing and with a little too many mistakes.
The first ten minutes saw the visitors with almost 75% possession, but it was Brisbane City with the first points on the board. Moses Sorovi crossed after a beautiful break by winger Alex Gibbon down the left sideline. Both players put their foot down to break the line and beat the tacklers. McIntyre missed the first of many conversions which, in the end, would have meant the difference between a win and a loss.
The Sydney Rays missed a cracker of an opportunity only minutes later when Brad Lacey managed to thwart a sure try by Jack Dempsey, who came off the back of a rolling maul.
Brisbane City kept pressure on the Rays, but a missed tackle by Lacey saw Irae Simone cross after some stellar footwork, and Matt Lucas added the extras.
In what became the rugby version of ping-pong, Brisbane City hit back with a try to McIntyre thanks to some fabulous work by team mates Toby White and Isireli Naisarani. White made a lovely midfield break and, not to be outdone, Naisarani made an even bigger break. Andrew Ready offloaded from there to Sorovi who passed to McIntyre and he used the space created to cross. McIntyre missed this conversion, possible distracted by his broken or missing teeth (mouth guards people, mouth guards!!) or Josh Turner who flew off the line to unsettle him.
The Sydney Rays were a little ill-disciplined in both halves and could have put the result out of reach – 15 missed tackles inside the first 30 and 5 line breaks for only 1 try. The penalty count early in the second half was 10-5 against the Sydney Rays.
Again the Rays hit back with Simone crossing for his second try of the match after Matty Lucas created a beautiful gap and City centre Patrick White missed a tackle.
Naisarani made another of his trademark breaks (I am very excited to see what he can do at the Western Force next season) but was once again bought down 1m short of the line. The biggest impact on the game today I felt was the missing Nick Frisby.
Sorovi shows a lot of promise, and his time in the NRC will really progress him, but at the moment his passing is slow and a little indecisive, and the City backs are being starved of the quick ball they have grown to expect.
After being thwarted early in the half Jack Dempsey crossed in the shadow of half time and the Sydney Rays went into the sheds ahead.
At this point, I definitely should acknowledge that Brisbane City looked better this match than in some of their previous, but the basics weren’t gelling. Andrew Ready, the stalwart of the Reds lineout had the yips and we lost 3 or 4 of our own lineouts.
Matt Lucas continued to outpoint Sorovi in general play and defense. His massive tackle early in the first half demonstrated that for all City were putting together phases, they were gaining little ground.
Alex Gibbon was denied a try as it was ruled his shorts went into touch at the same time he grounded the ball. It was an awesome attempt – juggling the ball and defenders along the left sideline, launching himself at the tryline at the same time the tacklers reached him.
Brisbane City were not to be denied for long through as Lukhan Tui crossed off the back of a rolling maul and McIntyre converts. Further tries to Turner, Lacey, Alcock and Tupou rounded out the match.
The Sydney Rays were finally pinged for constant minor infringements with hooker Damien Fitzpatrick yellow carded (and to his credit, and the credit of hookers everywhere, he did try to get out of the card by cramping, but women everywhere know that doesn’t work).
Chris Alcock, in his return to Australian rugby was fantastic off the bench for the Sydney Rays and I would expect that he should move into a starting spot soon as the Rays focus now on their finals chances.
The Game Changer
Simone’s second try followed by Dempsey’s meant that the Rays went into the sheds with a solid lead.
The G&GR MOTM
Irae Simone was fabulous – tries, line breaks, solid in defense. Excited to see what he delivers next, I think he will relish the challenge of a Super Rugby debut.
For me this match was less about Wallaby watch and more about Super Rugby watch – Isireli Naisarani and Irae Simone have excited careers ahead of them.
L. Tui 49'
McIntyre (1/5) 50'
Simone (2) 22', 33'
Lucas (3/4) 23', 33', 39'
Sinclair (1/1) 68'
Fitzpatrick 69' – YC
Brisbane City: 1. Pettowa Paraka, 2. Andrew Ready, 3. Sam Talakai (c), 4. David Findlay-Henaway, 5. Lukhan Tui, 6. Luke Beauchamp, 7. Michael Gunn, 8. Isi Naisarani; 9. Moses Sorovi, 10. Jake McIntyre, 11. Alex Gibbon, 12. Patrick James, 13. Toby White, 14. Chris Kuridrani, 15. Brad Lacey. Replacements: 16. Matthew Mafi, 17. Markus Vanzati, 18. Feao Fotuaika, 19. Criff Tupou, 20. Adam Korczyk, 21. Angus Fowler, 22. Mitch Felsman, 23.* Brendan Mitchell. Coach: Rod Seib.
Sydney Rays: 1. Rory O’Connor, 2. Damien Fitzpatrick, 3. Lawrence Hunting, 4. Connor Vest, 5. James Brown, 6. Jack Dempsey, 7. Michael Smith, 8. Michael Wells; 9. Matt Lucas (c), 10. Angus Sinclair, 11. Harry Jones, 12. Irae Simone, 13. Con Foley, 14. Josh Turner, 15. Johnathan Malo. Replacements: 16. James Hilterbrand, 17. Ezra Luxton, 18. Alain Miriallakis, 19. Adrian Hall, 20. Chris Alcock, 21. Dewet Roos, 22. Lochie Creagh, 23. Seb Wileman. Coach: Simon Cron.
* Lineup changes