Round 5 of the National Rugby Championships gets underway on Thursday, as the winless Queensland Country host the in form Greater Sydney Rams at Ballymore Stadium. The home side are yet to take home the bacon after three game, while the Rams will be hoping to continue their ascent to the finals.
Queensland Country remain win-less as round five of the NRC kicks off, after losing three matches and having a bye. The only other side without a win were the Rams opposition last week, the Sydney Stars.
After a bye in week one of the competition, the most successful round for the boys from the Queensland bush, they got their campaign under way in round two, with a convincing loss to the second placed NSW Country Eagles (13-37). Queensland Country then went on to lose their following two fixtures against the strong performing Canberra Vikings (26-21) and the under performing North Harbour Rays (29-32).
If Queensland Country are to grind out a win against the Rams, they need to lift defensive intensity and improve their structure throughout the backline. With an average of 4.3 tries let in a week, the backline will have to be gel to subdue to fiery Greater Sydney backline, which can attack from anywhere on the field.
Previous Results: B, L, L, L
Prior to last weeks dominant performance over the Stars, the Rams’ defensive and offensive patterns were slowly starting to emerge. These improvements culminated into an strong 80 minute performance during last weeks hit-out, with many players demonstrating their enormous potentials.
The forward pack took control of set piece against the Stars, whos pack was filled with Wallabies experience. The loss of Ben “Fatcat” Robinson will definitely be felt in the scrum battle this week, however Jed Gillespie won’t shy away from any work.
The starting backline remains unchanged from last weeks appearance and the boys wearing numbers 9-15 will look to once again capitalise on any opportunities presented to them. The Rams have the fire power out wide and the men inside them have quickly learnt how to make use of their combinations to spread the ball from left to right.
Previous Results: L, L, W, W
Players to keep an eye out for:
Queensland Country- The franchise has shown faith in young gun Campbell Magnay, who at the age of 17 is being rewarded with his second straight start. The young gun will be wearing the no.13 jersey, in a centre pairing with the 23-Test Wallaby Anthony Fainga’a.
At 195cm and 98kgs, some believe Magnay’s best position is on the wing, however his ability to offload and his physical presence on the field is well suited to the centres. Country will make use of his strong line running and sound pass to create space and opportunity for the outside backs.
Reports have emerged that a number of NRL clubs are interested in the young footballer, however Magnay has revealed his intentions to stick with the 15-man code.
Greater Sydney Rams– Jarome McKenzie has been touted as the ‘Red Folau’ due to his blistering speed in attack, which rivals fellow code switcher Israel Folau.
The Rams’ winger was a try scoring machine throughout his debut 2014 season for the Penrith Emus in the Shute Shield and he has continued that form into the National Rugby Championships, scoring in both his caps for Greater Sydney.
McKenzie has a 100% win record in the NRC, after being left out of the first two disappointing performances. However, since his debut in round three he has consistently demonstrated remarkable acceleration and solid defence, placing two massive hits early on against the Sydney Stars last week.
With ex-Waratah and Australian 7s Pakalani still recovering from an injury, McKenzie will look to have another strong performance tonight.
Peni Ravai is another man who is likely to have an impact this week. The Fijian 7s player comes into the reserves this week as a prop. The big man played at inside centre as a youngster and will likely provide surprising pace for a big man.
Don’t be surprised if you see him hanging out in the backs, if he gets ball in hand with space in front of him, he may even leave the opposition wingers in his dust.
Country: (1-15) Haydn HIRSIMAKI, Ryan FRENEY, Greg HOLMES (VC), Rubin FUIMAONO, Dan GORMAN, James TURNER, Beau ROBINSON, Ben ADAMS, Sam GRASSO, Matt BRANDON, Giles BEVERIDGE, Anthony FAINGA’A, Campbell MAGNAY, Tom PINCUS , Jamie-Jerry TUALAGI
Reserves: Tonga MA’AFU, Campbell WAKELY, Will Slipper, Mitch KING, Jack DE GUINGAND, James TUTTLE, Clynton KNOX, Rota SETU
Rams: (1-15) Jed GILLESPIE, Hugh ROACH, Guy MILLAR, Jared BARRY, Steve MAFI, Hugh PERRETT, Chris ALCOCK, Jed HOLLOWAY (C), Mark SWANEPOEL, Ben VOLAVOLA, Taqele NAIYARAVORO, Michael McDOUGALL, Lalakai FOKETI, Jarome McKENZIE, Dane CHISHOLM
Reserves: Peni RAVAI, Cameron BETHAM, Dave LOLOHEA, Dylan SIGG, Pat SIO, Vasa FALEALI’I, Jai AYOUB 23, Henry TAEFU
Bets: Match Odds: (Sportsbet.com.au) as of 9am Friday Country $2.50, Rams $1.52,
Safe Bet: Line: Rams (was -4.5 , now -6) $1.91 (Centrebet) The line is currently -3.5 for Betfair, however the bet is unavailable at the moment.
Risky Bet: Margin: Rams (13+) was $3.15, now $2.95 (Centrebet)
Dropped on your head as a baby bet: First try scorer: Jerome Mckenzie $9.5
Prediction: Rams to continue their winning streak, taking the game by 16 points
Can’t get to the game? Watch the game on Fox Sports 2 from 7:30