Sep 20 • Australia, General News • 1761 Views • Comments Off on SPIRIT FALL AGONISINGLY SHORT OF RAYS IN SYDNEY

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The Perth Spirit has suffered a heartbreaking three-point loss to the North Harbour Rays in Sydney tonight, defeated 32-29 in Round Five of the Buildcorp National Rugby Championship (NRC).

It was a tightly-fought match with the lead changing on numerous times as both sides made the most of their opportunities and exploited the gaps, each crossing for four tries.

Ammon Matuauto continued his strong showing in the tournament with another dangerous performance with the ball in hand, scoring a double today while Zack Holmes was also solid, controlling the play well at flyhalf and contributing to the scoreline with his three conversions.

Captain Joe Savage was outstanding in the forwards and led the team well across the park.

Perth Spirit coach Kevin Foote said his side had performed admirably but there was still work needed in their defensive play.

“We scored some nice tries but conceded some soft tries and were caught on the wrong side of the law on occasions,” he said. “That hurt us today.

“Our guys always show a lot of coverage to come back and score tries but we put in so much hard work for those tries and then concede easily so that’s something we will work on this week.

“I thought our forwards did particularly well today at the set piece. We were really firing in the beginning and we were scrumming very well but then we lost our focus a bit and then didn’t manage the game as well as we should have but we will improve on that going forward.”

After three matches on the road, the Spirit return to play their next two fixtures at home before a much needed bye.

“We’ve got a lot of bumps and niggles and that’s off the back of our club guys who’ve put in a massive effort,” Foote said. “Those guys are working full time and training after work and with the travel we’ve had it has definitely caught up to us.

“The next few weeks at home we can bring in some fresh legs and with the bye it will do a world of good for us.”

Flanker Harry Bergelin was first over the line for the Rays when they took the lineout and mauled it over. Playmaker Hamish Angus converted and the Rays were ahead 8-0 with ten minutes gone on the clock.

A penalty to the Spirit on the Rays 22-metre line and the subsequent kick to touch set up the chance to even the score and the away side didn’t disappoint, sending the ball in-field to find Matuauto who crossed under the posts. The conversion was easy for Holmes to take the score 8-all.

The Spirit pulled ahead 16-8 when Holmes converted his own try after the backs combined with a flowing piece of play to send him over.

The lead was clawed back not long after when the Rays crossed in identical circumstances to their first try, with No. 8 Sam Ward mauling it over off the back of the lineout and Angus slotting the extras to take it to 16-all.

The Rays took the 24-16 lead after the half-time break when Ward picked it up off the back of a scum 30 metres out and darted down the sideline to cross for his second. Angus kicked the difficult conversion from the sidelines.

With 28 minutes remaining in the match, the Rays were down to 14 men after Boyd Killingworth was sent off for slowing the ball down and the Spirit capitalised. They spread it wide and the player overlap saw Matuauto dot it down in the corner to get the away side within three points.

The Perth side found themselves short when Va’a Mailei was binned but they kept their defence tight to steal the Rays lineout. With a man down, the Spirit were still able to find the space out wide when Luke Burton sent a long pass out to Dillyn Leyds on the wing who crossed for his fifth try of the tournament.

Holmes’ conversion put the Spirit ahead 29-24 with 15 minutes to go.

The Spirit worked the play back down field and looked to be over again when captain Savage went over but the scrambling Rays defence held it up.

With just under ten minutes on the clock, Ward crossed for his hat-trick in the corner and Angus maintained his flawless kicking to put them ahead 32-29.

Despite their best efforts, the Spirit were unable to gain the territory they needed and couldn’t make up the three point deficit.

The Perth Spirit play the Sydney Stars at HBF Arena Joondalup on Sunday, 28 September.

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