McInnes Wilson Lawyers Brisbane City have claimed the inaugural Andy Purcell Cup with a 29-13 win over Bond University Queensland Country in front of more than 5,000 fans at Ballymore Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The win moves Brisbane City into second place on the Buildcorp National Rugby Championship ladder.
It was a tense and often heated affair between the two sides, as they re-ignited the classic Queensland Rugby rivalry of City v Country.
Queensland Country dominated the first half, with tries to Jamie-Jerry Taulagi and Tom Pincus. Flyhalf Matt Brandon kicked one conversion.
City fought back late in the half to trail 13-5 at the break, following a try to prop Pettowa Paraka.
Brisbane City took control of the match in the second half, with tries to hooker Andrew Ready, winger Chris Kuridrani and reserve lock Marco Kotze. Starting flyhalf Jake McIntyre kicked one conversion, while reserve flyhalf Quade Cooper kicked two conversions.
Perhaps the greatest cheer of the match was reserved for the returning Cooper, who came on with 20 minutes left. Cooper, who injured his AC joint in May, endured a rigorous test of his shoulder and threw some characteristic flick passes, much to the delight of the fans.
Cooper, along with the rest of the players, was mobbed following the match, with spectators allowed onto the field to get autographs, as is tradition with games at Ballymore.
Cooper said he was happy to be back playing and to make his NRC debut at Ballymore.
“It was great to see so many fans here,” he said.
“I was really excited to get out there and be a part of the team again. Being out there with the boys is a great feeling. The game was close so it was good to be able to contribute to the win.
“I’ve just got to keep doing the best I can for Brisbane City and if I do that, higher honours will come.”
City head coach Nick Stiles was pleased with the win and the spectacle of the all-Queensland derby.
“You just knew it was going to have intensity in the contact area and it delivered that,” Stiles said.
“It was a really good game and to come out with a victory was something we’re very happy with.
“We spoke throughout the week about the history of the City v Country clash dating all the way back to 1902, so the guys knew there was a lot of history behind it. The good thing about this comp is it’s in its first year and we have an opportunity to make our own history.
“The boys have won four games from five now and they’re thoroughly enjoying the NRC.”
Country coach Steve Meehan said he was proud of his team’s effort, despite the result.
“You can’t question the spirit and the determination shown by the Country side today,” he said.
“After getting out to an early lead in the first half, they continued to put pressure on the City side throughout the match, but two yellow-cards at the scrum hurt us and allowed City back into the game.
“We had two attacking opportunities inside City territory during the first half and we crossed on both occasions. It was pleasing to see the work we had put in at training pay off in that respect.”
Townsville front row brothers Andrew and Michael Parker both received their first NRC caps from Country at different stages during the match and Meehan was pleased to provide them both the opportunity.
“The Parker brothers both received an opportunity today and it’s pleasing to see two players from North Queensland take to the field for Country. They both obviously had strong seasons with Townsville Brothers.”
Queensland Country and Reds fullback Jamie-Jerry Taulagi scored the first try of the match in the 18th minute, in the same location he scored the match winning try Country against the Great Sydney Rams a week earlier. Matt Brandon missed the conversion leaving Country ahead 5-nil.
Tom Pincus crossed just five minutes later in the opposite corner, after Jamie-Jerry Taulagi stepped around a City defender who shot up out of the line to create an overlap for Pincus on the wing. Brandon slotted the conversion to extend Country’s lead to 13-nil.
City finally got on the scoreboard at the 32-minute mark, crossing the line through prop Pettowa Paraka.
Paraka crossed the line with a pick and drive following a great break from Jack Mullins that came just short of the line. McIntyre failed to add the conversion and City trailed Country 13-5 at half time.
Haydn Hirsimaki received a yellow card in the 38th minute which saw Townsville product Andrew Parker earn his NRC debut at the following scrum, coming on for Clynton Knox.
Andrew Ready scored the equaliser for City off a driving maul five minutes into the second half. McIntyre kicked the conversion to lock the scores at 13-13.
Kuridrani gave his side the lead 20 minutes into the second half, scoring in the corner following some dominant forward play.
City went with the pick and drive option for six phases off a five-metre scrum, before scrumhalf Nick Frisby had a dash down the sideline, only to get held up in contact. Kuridrani stripped the ball and ran straight for the corner post to crash over for the try. Cooper added the conversion to give City a 21-13 lead.
Country’s scrum woes continued in the second half, with Will Slipper yellow carded, for multiple collapses inside their 22-metre line.
City opted for another scrum, setting up an attacking raid. Two phases later, Kotze crashed over untouched to seal the win. Cooper nailed the kick from in front to take the score to 29-13.
The spectacle of the match in many ways justified Queensland Rugby’s decision in early 2014 to manage both Queensland NRC to ensure the quality of both teams was similar and that Queensland’s pathway objectives can be achieved.
Brisbane City travel to Sydney next Friday to take on the Greater Sydney Rams at Pirtek Stadium. Queensland Country travel to Perth to take on the Perth Spirit at Rockingham RUC on Saturday.
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