Spirit to play Eagles in NRC Final
REPORT: At Pittwater Park the Perth Spirit steamrolled their way into their second National Rugby Championship Final appearance, after using their set piece and consistent breakdown pressure to overcome the spirited Sydney Rays 42-24.
The home side captivated the vocal crowd with some brilliant tries, but when Perth's replacement hooker Anaru Rangi scored off a well-executed line-out drive in the 76th minutes, the score blew out to an unassailable 18-point lead to secure Perth the grand final berth.
The NSW Country Eagles will host next week's National Rugby Championship Final in Tamworth, after a dominant 50-24 semi-final win over Melbourne Rising in Newcastle on Saturday.
The Rising scored with their first opportunity with the ball when returned Wallaby Sefanaia Naivalu blitzed the field from halfway to score under the posts. However with the crowd behind them, the Eagles gained momentum with Sam Figg, Reece Robinson and Jake Gordon all demonstrating their class to score two tries each.
ARU General Manager of High Performance, Ben Whitaker said: "This has been the most competitive season of the National Rugby Championship, and both the NSW Country Eagles and Perth Spirit have been standouts throughout the 2016 tournament.
"An average of ten tries were scored per match during the regular season and we also witnessed some outstanding committed defensive displays, with defence being what separated the finalists.
"We're looking forward to a great event in Tamworth at Scully Park next weekend for the final, and we know the passionate Country Eagles fans will be cheering as loudly as they can to help the Eagles bring home their first ever NRC title. Perth will be sure to put up a fight, so the match is bound to showcase some fantastic rugby.
"We're also delighted that Nic Berry will referee the Tamworth final, which further highlights how the NRC gives enormous exposure and development opportunities to not only players but match officials and coaches too."
For Sydney Rays:
Tries: Fitzpatrick, Jones, Woolf
Cons: Lucas 2, Sinclair
For Perth Spirit:
Tries: Prior 2, Masirewa, Brache, Tessmann, Rangi
Cons: Prior 3
Referee: William Houston
Assistant referees: Edward Martin, Graham Cooper
TMO: George Ayoub