Bond University Queensland Country has gone down to the Charles Sturt University NSW Country Eagles, 37-13, in their Buildcorp National Rugby Championship opener at Bond University on the Gold Coast.
NSW Country scored five tries to Queensland Country’s two to claim the win, despite a spirited second half performance from the Queensland side in front of near 2000 fans at Bond University Rugby Club.
Queensland Country head coach Steve Meehan was optimistic about his team’s performance despite the result.
“We were very close to putting ourselves in a position to win the game,” Meehan said.
“NSW Country made the most of their opportunities in the first half. In the second half we were putting ourselves in a strong position to make a comeback, but a scrum we were dominant in went against us and a late intercept try saw the Eagles extend their lead.
“It was unfortunate for our players because I felt their effort and application was fantastic.”
NSW Waratahs Number 8 Stephen Hoiles opened up the proceedings in the first five minutes, crossing for the Eagles’ first try which flyhalf Sam Windsor converted to give the visitors a 8-nil lead.
Australian Under 20s winger Andrew Kellaway scored the first of his three tries in the 16th minute, Windsor added the extra three to put the Eagles ahead 16-nil.
Queensland Premier Rugby’s top point scorer for 2014, Tom Pincus, scored Queensland Country’s first try of the match in the 25th minute, fending off one of the Eagles’ front rowers to dive over in the right hand corner.
Pincus stepped up to convert his own try but the kick sailed out to the left leaving the Eagles ahead 16-5.
Just minutes later Kellaway darted down the left hand flank and put the ball down for his second try, putting NSW Country further in front, 21-5.
The home side were awarded with a penalty in the final minute of the first half, Pincus opted to take a shot at the posts but the attempt fell short, leaving the Eagles ahead 21-5 at the break.
Queensland Country came out in the second half and, led by the forwards, executed are far more direct game plan, which resulted in a try to Gold Coast lock Rubin Fuimaono, a crowd favourite for the afternoon.
Pincus converted Fuimaono’s try which left Queensland Country just eight points behind the Eagles, 21-13.
Queensland Country spent the majority of the second stanza inside the Eagles’ half, but it was the visitors who would have the final say. Fullback Patrick Dellit scored in the right-hand corner off a cross kick from Windsor and Kellaway followed suit just minutes later, scoring a 70-metre intercept try to claim his hat trick. The two late tries left the final score at 37-13 in NSW Country’s favour.
Despite the loss, Meehan identified a number of positives from the match.
“I thought our lineout adjusted well after the 30 minute-mark, which allowed our forwards to create some great forward momentum off driving mauls,” he said.
“I thought Rubin (Fuimaono) was very good at lock today as was James Turner at blindside and Haydn Hirsimaki at loosehead was impressive in the scrum.
“Our back three didn’t have too many opportunities but when Pierce Fitzgerald did get the ball in hand, he proved he can be a handful.”
Meehan was also happy to give two of the youngest players in the competition, James Tuttle (18) and Campbell Magnay (17), an opportunity from the bench.
“Tuttle and Magnay didn’t see a lot of game time today but they’ll be better for the experience and we saw an indication of what the two of them are capable of. It was terrific to give them an opportunity.”
Queensland Country will now turn their focus to next week’s clash against the University of Canberra Vikings at Viking Park on Saturday, September 6, at 2:30pm.
NSW Country Eagles 37 (Andrew Kellaway 3, Stephen Hoiles, Patrick Dellit tries; Sam Windsor 3 con, Darcy Etrich con) defeated Queensland Country Heelers 13 (Tom Pincus, Rubin Fuimaono tries; Tom Pincus con).
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