Winner Takes it All (To Fiji) - Green and Gold Rugby
National Rugby Championship

Winner Takes it All (To Fiji)

Winner Takes it All (To Fiji)

Queensland Country and the Western Force fought out a high scoring game when they met at Bond University in the regular season, with the Force prevailing. With a place in the big dance on the line, who would book their seats for the daunting flight to Fiji? On paper, these are two very evenly matched teams, so as long as nerves don’t play a part, we should be in for a good one.

The Match:

Under a backdrop of a gathering storm, the teams ran onto the field, and Hamish Stewart got us underway.

The Force looked keen to throw it early, perhaps sensing the weather may close in a little later on, however a turnover saw them in strife in their own end. A few phases later, a lovely ball from Stewart saw Jordan Petaia skip outside his man and seemingly easily got in the right corner.  5-0 early to Country as the lightning made an appearance in the background.

All the game early was in the Force half as they struggled to get out of their own end. A bit of push and shove saw Rod Davies throw a punch and earnt himself a seat on the naughty chair. From the resulting penalty, some consistent phase play and grunt work from the forwards saw another penalty and Caleb Timu being held up. The Force are holding on by a thread at this point.

Jack McGregor then found himself joining Davies after not rolling away and the Force were facing a two man gap for the next six minutes. Caleb Timu went blind off the scrum and scored and with Stewart missing the kick again it was 10-0 Country after 12 minutes.

With the advantage it was clear that the Force would be up against it. Deegan had a clearance charged down by Scott Young, which the Force didn’t clean up. Stewart got a dreadful ball out to Timu’s ankles and he did very well to take it and pass out to Petaia who had a clear path to the line and scored his second. Stewart is not enjoying his kicks today and it is 15-0.

There is no shortage of commitment in defence from the Force, Stander in particular feasting on Kirwin Sanday at one point, but some simple errors by Deegan and Prior were beginning to bite. The teams were soon both on an even footing, with the Force looking to be the next team to score in order to stop the game from getting away from them.

Errors continued to blight the Force game, but just when it was looking futile, a nice little short ball from Deegan put Brad Lacey away to score. Ian Prior made no mistake and it as game on at 15-7 with ten minutes before the break.

Country were quick to reply though, Hockings snagged the restart brilliantly, and after some consistent phase ball, Duncan Paiaua put through a kick which Chris Feauai-Sautia picked up at grass level and scored, making it look a lot easier than it actually was. Stewart missed the kick again and the Country boys were up 20-7.

The back and forth continued just before the break and the Force drove a maul as easy as you like over the line and Heath Tessmann was the beneficiary. No mistake from the conversion again, and despite being outplayed for the vast majority of the half, the Force go into the break down only 20-14. With the weather closing in, the game was still very much for the taking.

Duncan Paia-aua kicking through for Feauai-Sautia to score

Duncan Paia’aua kicking through for Feauai-Sautia to score

The heavens opened at half time and the possibility of a totally different game came to the fore. Whichever team coped better with the changed conditions would book their ticket to the final. An early scrum penalty saw Prior opt for the sticks and he made no mistake, and it was 20-17 Country.

With James Slipper off the park at half time with a popped rib, Harry Hoopert took the field, and it didn’t take long for him to make his mark, proving unstoppable from close range. This time Stewart found the mark and the lead was again extended.

Both teams were still looking to spin it and score points despite the weather and it made for entertaining rugby. Stewart in particular was throwing caution to the wind, with Tom Kibble going close after a long ball, and a no look pass from Daugunu, only a last ditch Alcock tackle preventing the score.

In an unusual move, Damon Murphy called a break due to the lightning being too close to proceedings. This left us with 27 minutes left on the clock and the game still for the taking. Once we returned from the smoko break, the rain was torrential and the Force were on the attack. From the restarting lineout, Harrison Lloyd dived over after some nice build up. Prior made no mistake again and we are back to a three point gap; 27-24.

Country then hit back with a try that in the conditions they had no right to do so. A line break from Daugunu, a spinning run by McDermott, back up by Daugunu and McDermott again and finished off by Tom Kibble topped off a 70m special. Stewart’s horror day in front of goal continued and it was 32-24 with the last quarter of the game ahead.

With around 15 minutes to go, a penalty against Stander for trying to tackle while still on the ground saw Stewart finally make good with the kick and it’s now 35-24. For those keeping track, that is 2 from 7 for Hamish today.

With time running out, the Force looked to try and score but a lineout that had been misfiring all day continued to be disrupted by the tall timber of Blyth and Hockings. I know they both had some Super Rugby but with a bit more meat on their bones they could truly be weapons for club and country in the mould of the South Africans of similar height.

A scrum penalty allowed Stewart to slot another penalty and with five minutes left the Country boys are up by 14. Angus Scott-Young got a late try as Country were winding the clock down, Stewart slotted it and then thanked his lucky stars that his wonky boot earlier in the game didn’t cost the team.

In the end the Force probably didn’t work hard enough off the ball to give Deegan and Prior options to work with and it told. Country go on to take on the Drua next week in what should be a great game in front of an amazing crowd.

Ian Prior working the ball wide before the weather took over

Ian Prior working the ball wide before the weather took over

The Game Changer

The lead Country built in the first 15 minutes off the back of the two yellow cards to Davies and McGregor proved to be too much in the end. They got within three just after half time but ultimately it was a bridge too far. Country kicked away late in the game and in the end had too many weapons.

The G&GR MOTM

With the game being so back and forth this was a hard one to choose. In the end, Hamish Stewart gets the gong today, despite a tough day with the boot. The way he controlled the play, cleaned up, kicking in general play was superb. In the end he was perhaps lucky his goal kicking didn’t come back to bite him. Honourable mentions go to Caleb Timu with his ever present offloads and the sheer class of Jordie Petaia.  For the Force, Harrison Lloyd was strong as was the leadership of Jeremy Thrush. Both the Country locks were also fantastic, causing havoc at the lineouts and restarts.

Rising Star Watch

To fit in with the new award being awarded by the NRC for those with limited Super Rugby (or test in the Drua’s case) experience, the brains at GAGR will also be picking their Rising Star in each game. Today this goes to Tom Kibble, the young number 7 for Country. He was in at the rucks all day disrupting ball and was at the end of the amazing try. What riches Australia (and Queensland) have at this position.

Scores and Scorers

Brisbane Country: 45

Tries: Jordan Petaia 2, Caleb Timu, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Harry Hoopert, Tom Kibble, Angus Scott-Young

Conversions: Hamish Stewart 2/7

Penalties: Stewart 2/2

Western Force: 24

Tries: Brad Lacey, Heath Tessmann, Harrison Lloyd

Conversions: Ian Prior 3/3

Penalties: Prior 1/1

Yellow Card: Rod Davies, Jack McGregor

Photo Gallery (courtesy Stephen Tremain)

 

  • Nutta

    Thanks Ben

    Quick observations:

    I wasn’t surprised Slipper popped a rib. Longbottom toweled him consistently.

    Stander was huge as was Alcock.

    For once I agreed with Hoiles – perhaps Rod had to be binned for the punch but not looking at why a guy like him was compelled to punch in the first place shows a continuing officiating trend to ignore what really goes on.

    The Force blew it with a crap lineout. Qld used their timber to spoil well.

    Hamish will be a good 10. He’s a good wet weather 10 particularly and makes his tackles. Just that place-kicking…

    • Jason

      Those Country Locks (Hockings and Blyth) could be the Wallabies locking pair in the future they are as good as anyone in the lineouts and apparently their scrummaging is sold too. They have really worked on that little offload game over the past year or two.

      As for Stewart I’d love to see someone else take the tee off him you can see it frustrates him, and I think that was why they started Tuttle (hopefully not out for too long). While it didn’t appear that Stewarts frustration leaked into his general play (he was outstanding) the risk is there. Apparently Daugunu can kick’em and Paia’aua isn’t awful; even if they are worse kickers than Stewart I think taking that pressure off him might actually be a long term benefit at least until he improves his goal kicking.

      • GO THE Q REDS

        OK so I kept quiet on some others comments about Stewart. …. but your assessment calling the rest of Stewart’s game “outstanding” leaves me to believe you may not have even watched the game..
        ….rather just read the extremely blushing summary by Ben.
        Now I’m am extremely happy to enter into a cordial debate if you simply refer to my earlier post that mentions a few of Stewart’s other shortfalls that shaped this game. Now to receive the motm gong. . .. despite these uncontestable facts to the negative, I’d be expecting a rather elaborate list of game breaking moments to swing it back into Stewart’s favour and onto the MOTM award!

    • SuckerForRed

      Re the punch send off – I am with you Nutta. I wonder if perhaps in situations where there is clear provocation via a penalisable action that the puncher gets sent off but the penalty for the original infringement stands. But still relying on the officials to see the original offence though…. sigh.

      • GO THE Q REDS

        Perhaps at bare minimum the refs make it known they saw what happened that lead to the fifht/punch meaning they’ve used up they’re buffer leading to future cards that may evolve. I’m not sure a punch should ever be treated as anything but the holy grail of evil on the rugby field. Certainly not less then the niggle that led to a punch.

  • Human

    Jordan Petaia to replace Hodge in Japan?

    • Nutta

      Given that performance today that is not a bad call.

    • John Tynan

      Still a couple of worries in defence for mine – both Petaia and Country as a whole. There were wide metres on offer that the Force exploited, and I think two(?) tries on that channel from an angled run, which probably shows awareness not quite there.

      • Human

        Fair points. It is not as though the Wallabies defence has been watertight though and Petaia looks like a genuine 13.

        • John Tynan

          Oh, mate, don’t get me wrong. He’s 18, plenty of time for him.

        • GO THE Q REDS

          Petaia was one of the BEST defenders of ALL backs in super rugby this year. He certainly had far better stats than Hodge did. He even bettered the much lauded Anton Lienert Brown. Petaia had an impressive 73%tackle efficiency rating with only a couple of turnovers and handling errors ALL year. He was only bettered by a few players with regards too missed tackles and ineffective tackles also.
          And that’s not even taking his attacking skills in to account. He’s a no brainer for the Wallaby squad.. . ..

    • Jason

      Cheika won’t do it. He’s apparently likely to call AAC… why is beyond me.

  • Ben Fox

    Was Cheika there?

    • Brumby Runner

      I heard Cheika being interviewed at a school kids carnival in Japan. When asked about his assistants, he came out with this little gem;

      “I believe in people and the team, and when you believe in people you get the victory, you know what I mean. Some people want the victory to believe in the people, but I believe in the people to get the victory.” Or very similar.

      • SuckerForRed

        Annnnnndddddd, where pray is said victory?

        • RugbyReg

          believe!!

    • Jason

      Clearly not, he’s apparently calling up AAC to replace Hodge at 13 (not that Hodge is even a 13). -_- Pretty much anyone in that country backline could come off the bench for the Wallabies and were calling up the 35 year old hack.

  • John Tynan

    Thanks Ben. I was a bit worried there early in the second half, wondering if the potential 10 points off the boot were going to bite us. My initial reaction to your MOTM was disagreeing, but when I stopped to think about it (a) I couldn’t pick anyone else out and (b) I think the decision to play field position in the conditions was the right one, although some of those were just hacks downfield which, against a different opposition, might have been more damaging than not.
    Bit it was this opposition, and I think the Force fans could be a little disappointed that their experienced guys let them down at key times – Prior and Davies dropped balls, Tessman at key lineouts all come to mind as pressure was building.
    Go Country!!

    • Nutta

      When you build a game around set-piece dominance and the bigger of the 3 elements that make it up turns to shite (lineout, scrum, restarts), well your day is done. We saw how strong the Forcies lineout was in the 1 decent attacking lineout win they had which turned into a veritable moving train and try. Their problem was they only did it once! Full credit to the Country lads who spoiled the lineout like champions and exploited the Forcies under-throwing/over-stepping mercilessly.

      • John Tynan

        Imagine feeding those two kids Blythe and Hockings who have really only just finished school and are 7 foot 14…

    • GO THE Q REDS

      Sorry but my initial bewilderment at Stewart as the motm stuck hard and solid.
      A woeful kicking display, and by that I mean full on shankd kicks and most misses at the sticks were a long way off. Add to that a poor in game kicking display, kicking possession out on the full and getting charged down. He also knocked the ball on trying some miracle pass that just wearnt even on. Stewart also single handedly allowed a try by rushing up solo in defence leaving a gaping hole for the try.
      Also as seen all year, Stewart was barely involved in any of the try scoring opportunities. Closest he got was passing it out to Petaia where they were still numbered up in defence. .. ..It took a solo effort by Petaia to score the try.. . .not Stewart recognizing an overlap or anything notable. There were more detailed errors in Stewart’s game again but I think you get the hint.
      There is no way in hell he was my Motm. I would have accepted EVERY/ANY other backline player before Stewart with that performance I’m sorry to say.

      • John Tynan

        The place kicking in the first half was all from wide and into the teeth of a gale, so I’m not too fussed about that.
        My standard response to you though would be to say “get off the fence” – if not Stewart, then who and based on what?
        PS: You’re not Quade are you?

        • GO THE Q REDS

          OK then.. . .I’ll pretend not too notice that none of those kicks curled from the wind……appearimg to be quite wide and straight. None dropped short either. And let’s forget that Ian Prior was in the same Tornado and didn’t have the same issues. .. .not even close. I wasn’t at the game but I’m in the same area and I wouldn’t be using gale force winds as an excuse. Torrential rain. .. yes.
          But what I’m more interested in is your response to all the other mistakes he made in that game. And I all ready answers who my motm would be.

National Rugby Championship
@Ben_Marczyk

Passionate about rugby from the grass roots up. Usually found at Brisbane club rugby games, or being involved in the junior and schools system. Love a chat, happy to admit when I'm wrong. I will watch any game of rugby regardless of who is playing, from juniors through to tests

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