Oct 18 • Australia, General News • 1542 Views • Comments Off on SPIRITED COMEBACK NOT ENOUGH AGAINST EAGLES

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Two late tries to replacement scrumhalf, Michael Ruru, has seen the Perth Spirit come agonisingly close in a 40-34 loss to the NSW Country Eagles this evening in Dubbo in the final round of the Buildcorp National Rugby Championship (NRC) season.

Despite the bonus-point loss, the Spirit finish fourth on the Buildcorp NRC ladder after the Vikings result fell in their favour and will now contest the semi-finals against the Melbourne Rising next week in Melbourne.

The Eagles jumped ahead with three unanswered tries in the first half before the Spirit found their feet through a try to Chris Heiberg and were playing catch up from that point on.

Lock Brent Murphy was outstanding throughout the match for the Perth side and it was the injection of fresh legs in Kieran Stringer, Davis Tavita, Cian O’Connor and Ruru off the bench that gave the side a much needed boost.

The Spirit trailed the home side by 22 points and with ten minutes remaining Ruru’s tries and flyhalf Zack Holmes’ conversions got them within six points.

The Perth side continued to fight and were camped out on the Eagles line before opposition scrumhalf Mick Snowden snatched the crucial turnover and the Spirit had to settle for a consolation bonus point.

Perth Spirit coach Kevin Foote said his side didn’t start well but to their credit, finished admirably.

“We had made it a goal of ours during the week to ensure we finished strongly against the Country side because only one other team had scored a try against them in the final 20 minutes of the match this season, and it was great to see the boys achieve that goal.

“The team was very frustrated with their start but they were very mature about it and at half time we regrouped and talked about what we needed to do to manage the game better.

“We got a bit angry and carried hard at them and stuck to our basics to go through them and as soon as we started doing that the pressure was back on them.

“We were very unlucky at the end there to not score the try because we were on their line but we’ll have to finish off better next time.

“Our focus now shifts to next week with the match against the Rising but we’ve got another long day of travel ahead of us tomorrow before we get home and can begin preparing again. The boys are very excited for the opportunity.”

The NSW side fired early, scoring their first try via Will Miller in the opening minute of the game and the conversion from flyhalf Sam Windsor put them 8-0 ahead on the score board.

Waratah Tala Gray crossed for their second before Miller scored his brace in the 24th minute and Windsor pushed the lead out to 24-0 with his accurate kicking.

The Spirit stemmed the flow of tries when the pick and go from the forwards inside the 22 sent prop Chris Heiberg barging through the defence from close range. Luke Burton kicked the conversion to pull back the difference to 8-24.

The away side continued the momentum into the second half when a number of phases off the back of the scrum drew the opposition in and the subsequent overlap allowed Zack Holmes to send a cut out pass to Va’a Mailei out wide to take the score to 13-24.

Brendan McKibbin and Windsor pushed the Eagles lead out to 19 points before the Spirit responded quickly with the forwards once again working the pick and go to send Robbie Abel over for his fifth try in three matches, taking the score to 18-32.

The Eagles turned momentum back in their favour on their own line when Pauli Tuala turned it over before linking with Andrew Kellaway and Darcy Etrich who sprinted 80 metres to cross and extend the NSW Country lead to 40-18.

The Spirit weren’t to be outdone however with scrumhalf Ruru getting his side within 14 points when he crossed off the back of a solid carry close to the line and Holmes slotted the conversion.

The lead was cut to just six points when Ruru scored a brace, picking up the Eagles too long lineout pass and diving over. Holmes conversion was good and with three minutes on the clock, the Spirit trailed 34-40.

From the restart, the Spirit worked the ball back inside the Eagles 22 and fought hard on their line but as the siren sounded they turned it over and kicked it out to claim the 34-40 victory.

Perth Spirit 34 (Michael Ruru 2, Chris Heiberg, Va’a Mailei, Robbie Abel tries; Zack Holmes 2 Luke Burton conversions)
NSW Country Eagles 40 (Will Miller 2, Tala Gray, Brendan McKibbin, Darcy Etrich tries; Sam Windsor 5 conversions)

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