Bald fans and balding coaches can be grumpy, but bountifully blonde ball-players like Ned Hanigan and Faf de Klerk seem always in good cheer.
Sydney Rays continued Brisbane City’s disappointing 2016 NRC campaign and got back on the winners’ list with a convincing win in Brisbane on Sunday.
The crowd who in fairness are probably not quite rusted on Brisbane City supporters yet, were certainly Brisbane’s rugby faithful and would have enjoyed some of the running rugby which was on display in the contest.
Sydney quickly settled and were all over Brisbane early on and should have scored after Irae Simone produced a beautiful pop pass to his fellow centre Con Foley and sent him on a searching run towards the line. A deliberate knock down from Brisbane centre Chris Kuridrani that should have seen yellow prevented a certain Sydney six pointer.
To Brisbane’s credit they weathered the early storm and number eight Isa Naisarani effected a crucial turnover. Following the turnover fullback Brad Lacey went on a damaging run to setup young scrumhalf Moses Sorovi who left the Sydney defence in his wake on the way to the try line to open the scoring.
Lacey was in everything and immediately after the kick off saved a certain try when he ripped possession away from Sydney number six Jack Dempsey when he was actually over the line attempting to score.
Brisbane decided to invite Sydney to open their account with some poor lineout throwing gifting possession away. Number 12 Irae Simone scored Sydney’s first try with a slashing run and step that left Lacey grasping at thin air.
Brisbane were not going to lay down and Naisarani went on some rampaging runs that led to a Jack McIntyre try. Isa Naisarani had a big first half and the Western Force would have liked what they saw after recently signing him for next season.
Missed tackles and ill-discipline were killing the Sydney team. Honestly if referee Will Houston was going to blow that many penalties, someone should have seen yellow. None the less the Sydney team went into the sheds at halftime ahead by 12 points after Jack Dempsey went on a beautiful run and scored under the posts.
The start of the second half mirrored the first half, except Brisbane had all the ball and unlike Sydney scored when second rower Lukhan Tui crashed over. It was good lead up work by Brisbane with the try coming after lineout and rolling maul set play.
The Sydney team’s injury woes in 2016 continued with prop Rory O’Connor leaving the field with what looked like a possible hand or wrist fracture. The big prop had been busy for Sydney, highlighted by a big run down the field in the first half.
Sydney did finally get the ball and looked like they were on their way to score, except for a crucial turnover engineered by Moses Sorovi. McIntyre’s clearing kick relived some pressure for Brisbane as NSW were pressing. The number 10’s kicking game was a class above the rest and was probably keeping Brisbane in the contest in the second half.
Sydney were not going to be denied and scored a wonderful running rugby try when the two wingers combined and Josh Turner went over to score a try. The try was engineered by some good lead up work by Sydney skipper Matt Lucas who got on the outside of his opponent and gave a wonderful pass.
In a see-sawing contest Brisbane were next to score with a clever kick catching Sydney centre off guard and his lazy attempt to clear the ball resulted in a Lacey try. Brad Lacey was Brisbane’s best player on the day and the try was reward for effort.
However, Brisbane did not respect possession after the restart and replacement Chris Alcock scored a try next to the posts. Alcock was impressive when he entered the fray and executed some crucial turnovers at the breakdown. The Brumbies have signed him for next season and he will be a good replacement for David Pocock.
Brisbane were not finished however and went on the offensive after the restart and were pressuring the Sydney defence resulting in several penalties being given away. Finally, Houston went to his pocket and sent the Sydney hooker Damien Fitzpatrick to the sidelines for repeated infringements.
After some punishing runs from replacement Criff Tupou for Brisbane, the brother of the Tongan Thor was rewarded and crashed over to keep Brisbane in the contest. Unfortunately for Brisbane they had used up all their petrol tickets. The remainder of the match was punctuated with Brisbane failing to retain possession on numerous occasions as no one was willing to do the hard work at the breakdown.
In the end Sydney ran out six point winners with a 38-32 victory to move into second place on the ladder. Centre Irae Simone continued his impressive run of form with several dazzling runs and a couple of crucial defensive plays to turn the ball over in the second half. Simone will play at the next level sooner rather than later and must have several Super Rugby franchises monitoring his progress.
Man of the match for mine though was the Sydney general Matt Lucas, he led his team around the park brilliantly and had a hand in several of Sydney’s five tries. A better performance from Brisbane, but a lack of fitness at the end while playing against 14 men probably cost them the match.