Monday 19 March 2018 / 11:49 AM

North Harbour Rays nip QLD Country 32-29

Bond University Queensland Country have gone down narrowly to the Macquarie University North Harbour Rays 32-29 in their Round 4 Buildcorp National Rugby Championship clash at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast.

The match was played as the curtain raiser to The Rugby Championship Test between the Qantas Wallabies and Argentina, and both sides produced some enterprising Rugby to entertain the Gold Coast Rugby community who were treated to a unique double-header.

The North Harbour Rays scored three tries to Queensland Country’s one in the first half to hold a 24-8 lead heading into halftime, but the Country side put on 21-unanswered points in the second half to lead 29-24, before a try in the 75th minute to the Rays left the home side trailing by three-points with minutes left on the clock.

Queensland Country head coach Steve Meehan said that while he was impressed with his sides second half performance, they made their task very hard by letting the North Harbour side out to a two-try lead before half time.

“Allowing the Rays to get out to a 24-8 lead before halftime didn’t help our cause and made it a lot harder to come back in the second half,” Meehan said.

“In the second half the tables turned and for us to score 21 unanswered points and take the lead, I thought that was an exceptional effort it’s a really unfortunate that we didn’t secure the win.”

The match began with the North Harbour side applying pressure on Queensland Country deep within their half which led to a try to hooker Luke Holmes in the fourth minute. Flyhalf Hamish Angus slotted the conversion giving the visiting side an early 8-nil lead.

Queensland Country capitalised on a number of penalties in their favour and worked their way into the North Harbour half. Some fancy footwork from fullback Jamie-Jerry Taulagi saw winger Todd Winkley cross in the left-hand corner for Country’s first try. Matt Brandon added the extra three to level the score 8-all.

Anthony Fainga’a was dealt a yellow card in the 22nd minute for repeated infringements at the ruck, and Angus made the most of his side’s one-man advantage and crossed for the Rays second try, which he converted to put his side back in the lead, 16-8.

Fullback David Feltcheer further extended the Rays lead in the 33rd minute, scoring their third try which Angus ably converted to put the visitors ahead 24-8, which remained the score heading into the halftime break.

St.George Queensland Reds Wider Training Squad ‘Player of the Year’, Sam Johnson, had his NRC debut cut short suffering a head knock in the 46th minute, after coming on as a blood-bin substitution for captain Anthony Fainga’a just a minute earlier. He returned to the sideline allowing Giles Beveridge to enter into the match at outside centre.

Queensland Country worked their way deep inside the Rays half and the forwards began working their way towards the try line with a series of pick-and-drives. The pack eventually crashed over the line but the ball was ruled to be held up by referee Andrew Lees. North Harbour lock Ed Gower was given a yellow card for collapsing the maul.

The ensuing scrum saw Queensland Country awarded a penalty try which Brandon converted to spark Country’s comeback, the home side now trailing by just eight points, 24-16.

Country made the most of their one-man advantage and proceeded to score a further two tries in the far left corner. The first saw 17 year-old outside centre Campbell Magnay break the last tackle to offload to Winkley who crossed for his second try. Brandon added the extra three and the score was once again level at 24-all.

Meehan was happy with Magnay’s first 80 minute hit out for Country.

“When we held possession and controlled the ball in the second half we got to see just how effective Campbell can be. His one handed offload to put Todd WInkley over for his second try was particularly impressive,” Meehan said.

“As we know he hasn’t had his 18th birthday yet so he still has a lot to work on but that will come with experience, overall he did well to get through the full 80 minutes and he can be proud of his performance.”

The second try came through a series of pick-and-drives which saw Jack de Guingand score his first ever try for Queensland Country, putting the home side in the lead for the first time in the match. Brandon missed the conversion which left Country ahead, 29-24.

Despite Queensland Country putting 21-unanswered points on the North Harbour side, the visitor’s weren’t finished for the night and they managed to score a late try in the 75th minute through lock Ed Gower, which Angus converted to put the Rays back in the lead 32-29.

The Country side had one last gasp effort deep within the Ray’s half and it looked as though they would cross after they were awarded two penalties after the final siren had sounded, but a knock on at the back of the scrum would end the match, with North Harbour ahead 32-29.

“Despite the result tonight, the spirit within the team remains strong and the endeavour is there so I’m sure the win isn’t too far away,” said Meehan.

Queenland Country will now turn their focus to their Thursday night clash against the Greater Sydney Rams at Ballymore Stadium, which will be televised on Fox Sports 2 from 7:30pm.

North Harbour Rays 32 (L Holmes, H Angus, D Feltcheer, E Gower tries; H Angus 4 conv) defeated Queensland Country 29 (T Winkley 2, J de Guingand, penalty try tries; M Brandon 3 conv).

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