Eagles soar into NRC Final
REPORT: The NSW Country Eagles will host the National Rugby Championship Final in Tamworth after a dominant 50-24 semifinal win over Melbourne Rising in Newcastle.
Despite finding themselves 0-16 down inside the first 10 minutes, the Eagles found themselves on top midway through the first half and were never looked back from there to seal the win and confirm hosting rights.
Rising scored with their first opportunity when Wallaby Sefanaia Naivalu found himself in space down the left edge and threw a wonderful dummy to run it in under the posts from beyond halfway.
Hooker Pat Leafa then scored from a line-out trick play with Colby Fainga'a flicking the pass back to him, Leafa over in the corner. Jack Debreczeni's kicking boot was on and Melbourne led 16-0 after just seven minutes.
Country got on the board soon after though, when Sam Figg snapped up an intercept and ran 50 metres. Andrew Deegan's conversion made it 16-8 to the Rising but the Eagles were finally in the game.
For the next 15 or so minutes, it became a territory battle, as both teams looked to find any field advantage they could. It was like the opening softening period was just moved to the middle of the first half.
Two tries to Country and Waratahs' Reece Robinson in two minutes confirmed the momentum swing that had been brewing and suddenly, with a ball to play with, the Eagles led 22-16 with less than 10 minutes to half-time.
Figg then bagged a second himself, after Jake Gordon swept on a loose Rising line-out throw, and the Eagles went into counter-attack mode. A top shelf offload from Paddy Ryan saw Figg set sail for the corner.
Deegan missed the conversion but NSW Country were very satisfied heading to the sheds 28-16 up at the break.
The Eagles picked up where they left off after half-time and were on attack almost straight away. They kept the pressure up on the Rising line and it was lock Rohan O'Reegan who finally got the reward. Another Deegan conversion made it a 36-16 lead for the home side.
Jake Gordon was next to score, making a half break and then carrying two Rising defenders over the line through sheer determination to make it 42-16.
Melbourne desperately needed to score next and finally managed to get some attacking ball in the Country 22. From a line-out, flank Jordy Reid was able to crash over in the corner and Debreczeni's conversion narrowed the score to 42-24 with 15 minutes to play.
A late second try for Gordon and conversion from out wide from Tayler Adams sealed the 50-24 win.
For NSW Country Eagles:
Tries: Figg 2, Robinson 2, Gordon 2, O'Reegan
Cons: Deegan 3, Adams
For Melbourne Rising:
Tries: Naivalu, Leafa, Reid
Cons: Debreczeni 3
Referee: Graham Cooper
Assistant referees: Edward Martin, Andrew Cox
TMO: Ian Smith