Super Rugby


Five things we learned - NRC Round 5

Bond University Queensland Country have claimed top spot on the National Rugby Championship ladder for the first time in the competition’s short history, following their 54-12 win over the Melbourne Rising at Bond University. McInnes Wilson Lawyers Brisbane City unfortunately didn’t share the same success, falling to the Perth Spirit 62-28 in Perth. 

These are five things we learned from Round 5 of the National Rugby Championship. 
1.     Super Saturday delivers for Queensland Rugby’s rep sides 
Super Saturday proved to be a super success for all Queensland teams involved at Bond University, with not only Queensland Country taking home the spoils. The day began with the finals of the AON University 7s series where University of Queensland won their fourth straight tournament undefeated, claiming the overall series trophy. The Queensland U16s then accounted for NSW in the National U16s Championship final 21-12 and the Queensland Red U15 side took out the Junior Gold final with a comprehensive 71-10 win over the Sydney Rays. 

Queensland Country’s eight try effort saw them reach top of the ladder for the first time ever, a stark contrast to their cellar-dweller seasons in previous years. All top four sides currently sit on 15 competition points, with Country sitting on top through points difference. Defence is a key difference for the side in 2017, having only leaked 96 points across their four matches to boast the best defence record in the competition. The advantage for Country is that they have a game-in-hand having already had their bye in Round 3. 
2.     Queensland’s lock stocks in good shape
Queensland Country head coach Brad Thorn will be happy with the ever-improving performances from his two 19-year-old locks, Harry Hocking and Angus Blyth. Both in their first season of NRC, the two Country products, Hoocking from Bowen and Blyth from the Gold Coast, have stood up and imposed themselves physically on each forward pack they have faced and have been instrumental in Country’s line-out success. While Thorn works directly with these two Reds prospects ahead of the 2018 season, two of his previous U20s pupils Izack Rodda and Lukhan Tui, both still aged 21, featured for the Wallabies over the weekend in South Africa. The match saw Tui make his debut off the bench while Rodda earned his first cap in the starting XV. 
3.     Selection headache for Thorn ahead of Round 6

Following Country’s third straight win, news broke from Wallabies camp that Izaia Perese will be returning home from the tour to earn valuable game time in the NRC. Perese was impressive in Queensland Country’s opening two matches, particularly in their first ever win over Brisbane City, but who would make way for Perese in the current starting backline? Thorn and his assistant Paul Carozza went with an unchanged backline in their past two matches and the combinations appear to be working. Duncan Paia’aua and Chris Feauai-Sautia have formed one of the most damaging centre pairings in the competition while the Fijian wing duo of Eto Nabuli and Filipo Daugunu have made their presence known in both attack and defence. Daugunu has crossed for five tries across his two appearances for Country, scoring a hat-trick against the Rising. Situations such as this are something the Country squad haven’t encountered before, but are a welcome headache for the coaching staff to resolve. 

4.     City in need of a big win in North Sydney 
Brisbane City are in need off a big win against the Sydney Rays in Round 6 if they are to get their season back on track. So far the two-time premiers have played each of the teams currently in top four, and have recorded wins over the Fijian Drua and Canberra Vikings. In theory, their road to the finals should improve as their remaining four games will see them face the Rays, Melbourne Rising, Greater Sydney Rams and NSW Country. This should assist the City side to build ladder points and improve their points differential ahead of the business end of the season. 
5.     Battle of the Bush set to take place at Bond  
This Saturday, Queensland Country return to the Gold Coast for the second straight week as the take on the NSW Country Eagles in the annual all-country affair. Queensland Country’s first ever match was against NSW Country at Bond University way back in Round 1 of the inaugural season in 2014, and while their southern counterparts claimed the win on that day, Queensland Country have since won their 2015 and 2016 matches to boast bragging rights ahead of the game. In 2015 Queensland Country grinded out a narrow 24-16 win over the Eagles in the wet in Newcastle, and last year, despite being a top of the table vs the bottom of the table clash, the Queensland side overcame all odds to record a 40-38 win in Toowoomba. Queensland Country have never looked better heading into this year’s clash, but they won’t take the Eagles lightly in this much-anticipated grudge match. The day will also see the NRC competition celebrate Pasifika Round, and Queensland Samoa and Queensland Maori will play the curtain raiser to the Country v Country match, which kicks off at 4:00pm AEST. 

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