07 Oct, 2017, 05:00 pm
The Elders NSW Country Eagles were left to rue a slow start to both halves after losing an agonisingly close match 34-31 to ladder leaders QLD Country.
The game started at a frenetic pace, with no break in play for the first four minutes. Pat McCutcheon nearly registering first points for the Eagles off a charged down Hamish Stewart kick. Despite the early pressure, QLD Country looked threatening, and Patrick James was the first to cross for the afternoon, crashing over from close range after a nice ball from halfback James Tuttle in the 7th minute. The breeze was making kicking difficult, and the nippy halfback couldn’t add the extras.
It was Queensland Country who looked more fluent in attack, a few handling errors hurting the Eagles, especially at set piece time. Brandon Paenga-Amosa and Staniforth were a constant pest over the ball at the breakdown, but QLD were up to the test, and thwarted a number of attacking raids, with effective exits from Stewart relieving pressure on a number of occasions.
As they’ve done so well this season, QLD turned defence into attack in the 23rd minute, when Stewart found a rampaging Perese, whose inside ball to Nabuli eventually saw Angus Scott-Young rumble over from close range. When Tuttle steered his kick through, it was a 12 point margin, and NSW Country’s inability to turn territory into points looked like it could be the men in orange’s achilles heel for the afternoon.
Things got worse for Coleman’s side with five minutes to go in the half, when Filipo Daugunu played on quickly, stepped in and away from 15m out to score in the corner. Tuttle was still struggling to place kick in the stiff breeze, but by this stage, Brad Thorn’s side was showing every reason why they were top of the table front runners with their suffocating defence and devastating ability on the counter.
At oranges, it remained a 17 point advantage to the home side, with Darren Coleman’s men needing to find more fluency with ball in hand to make a fist of the fixture.
The second half started in much the same fashion as the first. The Eagles on the attack before an untimely turnover from QLD saw them go end to end, Nabuli scoring in the corner after some breathtaking lead up work. Tuttle’s kick was a stunner, and all of a sudden it was a 24 point lead.
The crowd barely had time to blink before QLD were in again, this time Nabuli went from try-scorer to try-assister; his last pass inside to Isaiah Perese coming after a half break from 30m out. The Eagles looked shell-shocked, a stark contrast to the laid back Brad Thorn watching wisely on from the sidelines.
Finally, the Eagles found some joy and were next to score through Andrew Kellaway after an inch-perfect cross kick from fly half Tayler Adams. The kick was away, and with 20 minutes to play, QLD led 31-5.
Both sides showed some attacking enterprise, with both benches basically empty in the pursuit of fresh legs and keen injections into the game.
The Eagles scored again in the 66th minute, after a perfectly executed rolling maul from 5m out saw replacement hooker Connal Mcinerny dive over from close. Adams kicked hs first of the day, reducing the margin to 19 points with 15 minutes to play.
The Eagles had their tails up, but James Tuttle settled things in the 70th minute with a penalty goal to push the lead to 22. QLD thought that was the game, until a quick kick off from Adams saw the Eagles go 50m to send Maclean Jones over in the corner immediately. Adams couldn’t convert, however, and with 8 minutes to play, QLD had a 17 point buffer.
Jake Gordon made 30m off a half break soon after, and QLD were penalised for a high tackle as they scrambled back. Adams’ kick to the line resulted in a 5m lineout, the Eagles looked to roll in again, but Harry Johnson-Holmes unfortunately spilt his lollies on the line. The resulting scrum was a belter, and the Eagles won a tighthead. The ball went wide and Adams again, in a case of serious deja vu, kicked to the corner where Kellaway scored his second. His conversion was a stunner, and it was a 10 point game with six minutes to play.
Unfortunately, the Eagles had too much to do, and despite a try after the siren to Jake Gordon from the base of the scrum, the Eagles couldn’t storm home to seal an unlikely victory. The final score ending 34-31 in favour of the home side.
NSW COUNTRY EAGLES 24
Tries: A. Kellaway (2), C. McInerny, M. Jones, J. Gordon
Cons: T. Adams 3/5
QLD COUNTRY 34
Tries: P. James, A. Scott-Young, F. Daugunu, E. Nabuli, I. Perese
Cons: J. Tuttle 3/5
Pens: J. Tuttle 1/1
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WILEMAN, MCCUTCHEON IN AS COLEMAN NAMES HIS ROUND 6 SIDE TO FACE QUEENSLAND COUNTRY
Darren Coleman has made two changes to the starting side that defeated the Sydney Rays 26-17 last Monday in Goulburn.
In the forwards, man of the match Sam Ward rests, making way for Pat McCutcheon to pack down at the back of the scrum.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Warringah star Seb Wileman comes on to the right wing, replacing Henry Clunies-Ross.
Coleman has again opted for a 6-2 forwards-backs split on the bench, Tyson Davis and Lachlan Swinton earning recalls to the side.
TEAM TO TAKE ON QUEENSLAND COUNTRY
SAT 7th OCT, 5PM.
BOND UNIVERSITY, QUEENSLAND.
1 – PATRICK RYAN (C)
2 – BRANDON PAENGA-AMOSA
3 – SAMUEL NEEDS
4 – RYAN MCCAULEY
5 – TOM STANIFORTH
6 – ROHAN O’ REGAN
7 – MACLEAN JONES
8 – PAT MCCUTCHEON
9 – JAKE GORDON (VC)
10 – TAYLER ADAMS
11 – ALEX GIBBON
12 – KYLE GODWIN
13 – ALEX NEWSOME
14 – SEB WILEMAN
15 – ANDREW KELLAWAY
16 – CONNAL MCINERNEY
17 – MATT GIBBON
18 – HARRY JOHNSON-HOLMES
19 – TIM BUCHANAN
20 – LACHIE SWINTON
21 – NICK KELLAWAY
22 – TOM HILL
23 – TYSON DAVIS