Super Rugby


Bond University Queensland Country claim Round 1 win over Canberra Vikings

Bond University Queensland Country have secured a 45-35 win over the Canberra Vikings in their Grand Final rematch season opener at Viking park in Canberra.
The win is Country’s first ever Round 1 win in the National Rugby Championship’s (NRC) short history. Country outscored the Vikings seven-to-five, with both Alex Casey and Jock Campbell crossing for doubles, while James Tuttle and Hamish Stewart slotted five conversions between them.
Casey opened up the scoring in the 6th minute of the match off the back of a series of pick-and-drives from the forwards. Tuttle slotted the conversion to give Queensland a 7-nil lead.
Canberra didn’t enter Country's half until the 12th minute of the match, but were quickly forced back inside their own 22m, with James Slipper delivering a bruising tackle and turnover. Duncan Paia’aua put Jock Campbell over for the second try of the match through a perfectly weighted cross-field kick, finding Campbell in clear space on the right wing. Tuttle missed the conversion leaving the score at 12-nil.
Vikings hooker Folua Fainga'a was next to score, falling over the line off the back of a driving maul. Wharenui Hawera slotted the conversion, narrowing Country’s lead to 12-5.
Andy Muirhead was held up over the line in the 22nd minute, but the Vikings were awarded a penalty for a high tackle in the lead up, and the resulting play from a line-out five metres from the Country try-line led to a try for Lausii Taliauli. Hawera slotted the conversion to put the home-side two-points ahead, 14-12.
Campbell crossed for his second try of the match in the 33rd min, securing an intercept inside Country’s half to run over 80 metres and score. Tuttle’s conversion attempt was successful, putting Country back in the lead 19-14.r
Country camped themselves on the Vikings line in the dying minutes of the first half, and were eventually rewarded with Casey crossing for his second try in a similar fashion to his first. Tuttle missed the conversion leaving the score at 24-14 at half-time.
After being tackled into touch in the 42nd minute, Muirhead scored the first try of the second half off a set-piece move from a scrum. Jordan Jackson-Hope, who threw the pass to put Muirhead over the line, slotted the conversion narrowing the score-line to 24-21.
Queensland Country answered back with another pick-and-drive try, this time Angus Blyth crossed for his first try in the NRC. Tuttle added the extras to take the score to 31-21.
Both Blyth and Efi Ma’afu were held up over the Vikings line, before Caleb Timu crossed in the 60th minute. Hamish Stewart slotted the conversion to extend Country’s lead to 38-21.
The Vikings struck back with Faingaa diving over for his second try of the match. Jordan Jackson-Hope added the extras, narrowing the margin to 38-28.
Faingaa crossed again for his third try of the match in 73rd minute, which Jackson-Hope converted, to narrow the score to 38-35 with just minutes left on the clock.
With pressure mounting from the Vikings, Country went back to work inside the home-side’s half and a break from Tate McDermott led to a pick-and-drive try for Rob Puli’uvea. Stewart added the extras to extend Country’s lead to 45-35, securing them the win.
Queensland Country head coach Rod Seib said: “Overall it’s really pleasing to kick off the season on a positive note. It provides us with plenty of momentum heading into Round 2 and creates a great vibe around the squad.
“One thing I was really impressed with was that the win came from a team effort. I was impressed with all the players out there, and the guys who came off the bench added to the team’s performance.
“The group showed a lot of resilience. We got off to a good start before the Vikings came back and took the lead, but we showed determination and went back to our game plan to come back. Momentum was against us at times but we asserted ourselves well.
“In the dying stages when the Vikings were on a roll it was pleasing to see the boys lock out the game with that late try. We have so many weapons across the park, but we weren’t reliant on one or two players to get the win.
“We certainly have areas of the game to improve. Defensively, to let in 35 points isn’t great. We weren’t adjusting quick enough to the attacking threat so we'll address that this week, and in attack, we need to work on the ball carry and our body height in the red zone. Great to get the win but we still have plenty of room for improvement.
“We head to Townsville next week to take on the Melbourne Rising, and it will be special for the team to travel north and play in front of the local Rugby community. As a team we represent Country Queensland and we haven’t been to north Queensland in a number of years so to play in Townsville and Mackay in Round 3, it will be great for the squad and local supporters.”  
The match saw six players welcomed into the Queensland Country fold, with starting XV players Harry Hoopert, Jordan Petaia, Joey Fittock and Tom Lucas, as well as reserves Jake Simeon and Harry Wilson, all making their NRC and Country debuts.
Queensland Country will head north for Round 2, taking on the Melbourne Rising at Townsville’s Mike Carney Toyota Park next Sunday, September 9, kicking off at 3:00pm. It will be the first-time Country have played in Townsville since the NRC’s inaugural season in 2014.
Queensland Country: 45
Tries: Alex Casey 2, Jock Campbell 2, Angus Blyth, Caleb Timu, Rob Puli’uvea
Conversions: James Tuttle 3, Hamish Stewart 2
Canberra Vikings: 35
Tries: Folua Faingaa 3, Lausii Taliauli, Andy Murihead
Conversions: Wharenui Hawera 2, Jordan Jackson-Hope 3

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