NRC R3 Review: The soaring Eagles grind out a win over the sinking Rays

NRC Round 3 Review: Dour conditions were yet again present during Thursday night’s NRC clash, as the North Harbour Rays hosted the NSW Country Eagles at Brookvale Oval. A typical wet weather kick-fest could have been expected, however the conditions did little to dampen the attacking style of play, which the NRC is fast becoming famous for. 1,981 fans braved the cold to watch the Rays bag their first win of the inaugural tournament, however they witnessed the Eagles carve a third notch onto the bed post, in as many games.

The Game: The Rays showed faith in their structure early and were rewarded for choosing to kick for the corner off a penalty inside the oppositions 22. They drew first blood through Michael Wells, who scored off the back of good attacking pressure. Shortly afterwards, Josh Holmes demonstrated the necessity of 15mm sprigs in slippery conditions , slipping mid motion while trying to place a clearing kick from the line out. The scores were levelled up, as the 19 year old man on fire, Andrew Kellaway, finished off a swooping back line move down the blindside, putting the shimmy on Cam Crawford to score in the corner. The draw was short lived however, as Sam Windsor converted from the sideline, the Eagles were in front 8-5. The Eagles number 10 also showed moments of brilliance as he made a line break, followed by a cheeky pass to Tala Gray, which just crept forward.

Sam Windsor showing streaks of brilliance against the Rays © Karen Watson Photography

One of the highlights of the night was a phenomenal team try, as the Eagles turned the ball over in their own 22, McKibbin streaked down the field, getting the ball to Steven Hoiles, who decided to perform a 30m cross-field chip kick into the arms of Kellaway, before Tom Matthews received a pop pass and finished off the try.

The Rays again received reward from a line out in the oppositions 22, as Luke Holmes dotted the ball down from the tail end of a driving mall, showing strength and class against the suspected dominant forward pack. The Brookie half time siren was heard and the Eagles walked into the sheds with a slight 16-13 lead.

As the second half got underway, it looked like the Rays number 10, Hamish Angus, launched his bid to play quarterback in the upcoming NFL season, throwing a long forward pass to his potential wide reliever. David Feltscheer showed great tenacity to score first in the second half, receiving a cut out pass from Crawford and stepping one defender before swatting away Will Miller, to cross under the posts. The Rays took a lead of 21-16 following a successful conversion.

It was time to sink or swim for the Rays (sorry for that), but handling errors plagued their chances for the rest of the game. Two wayward balls went to ground in their own half, which were swooped upon by Samu Wara and Kellaway, who scored his 6th try in 3 games. The Eagles continued to mount pressure on the boys from north of the harbour, conversion two penalties before the final siren, bringing the score to 33 for the Eagles, beating the Rays 21.

Under 20's prodigy, Andrew Kellaway, dives over for a try against the Rays
Under 20’s prodigy, Andrew Kellaway, dives over for a try against the Rays © AJF Photography

My MOTM: The star of the night goes to Andrew “the fire” Kellaway, who scored two tries, hand his hand in at least one other and made a number of decisive runs.

NSW Country Eagles 33 (Andrew Kellaway 2, Ed Stubbs, Samu Wara tries; Sam Windsor 3 cons, 2 pens)
North Harbour Rays 21 (Michael Wells, Luke Holmes, Dave Feltscheer tries; Hamish Angus 2 cons)

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