The Greater Sydney Rams have earned their first win of the season, edging out Sydney rivals the North Harbour Rays, 23-21 in a see-sawing affair.
All signs were pointing to a try-fest, the weather was fine, the loser was set to have one hand on the wooden spoon and both the Rams and the Rays are know for being attacking threats, usually flailing in defence, conceding 6 and 6.5 tries a game consecutively.
No body seemed to tell the players about the impending try-fest, with both teams stepping up their defence and scoring their lowest points of the season.
Only minutes after the first whistle, halfback Dewitt Roos, who has been one of the Rams strongest players in the 2015 season, was sent to the bin in a dubious decision from ref Andrew Lees.
The Rays capitalised on the Rams player deficit, providing the first points of the match, through inside centre Reece Hodge, who finished off some sharp team play out wide. Hamish Angus made made his first chance off the boot count, converting to bring the score to 8-0 in favour of the away side.
The home side hit back moment later, after setting up an effective driving maul off the back of a lineout, seeing Cohan Masson cross the line for his first of the match. Matt Teki couldn’t manage to continue his perfect consistency off the boot from last round, leaving three points out there.
With Roos still in the bin, fast thinking from Josh Holmes who took a quick tap before Sam Lane placed a well weighted grubber behind the unprepared Rams’ backline, providing winger John Porch with his third try and two games for the Rays. “Lolly Legs” was the chant from the horned army, which disrupted Angus enough to provide a miss for his second conversion attempt. Upon Roos’ return, the home side were down 13-5, not a bad result for being down a halfback for 10 minutes.
The home fans were left cheering when the Rams caught the Rays’ defence by surprise, capitalising on a simple overlap to send Larry Hermans over in the corner. Teki missed the difficult conversion, leaving the home side down by only two points.
Consistent pressure mounted by the Rams’ forwards provided Masson his second try of the match, driving over from close range. This time Teki was successful from the boot as the Rams took the lead 18-13 in the last score of the half.
Defence was key for the remaining 13 minutes of the first half, as both sides squashed some strong attacking plays, diffusing good attacking pressure.
The second 40 started in the same fashion that the first finished, remaining scoreless for 23 minutes. It wasn’t until Rams’ centre Michael McDougall fumbled the ball from a kick return under high pressure, allowing ex-Ram Tom Hill score a try against his old side. The conversion broke the stalemate as the Rays took the lead 21-18 with 15 minutes remaining.
Pressure was building on the home side, they had scored the same amount of tries as the Rays and were trailing off the back of a poor conversion percentage yet again. They held the ball for majority of the second half within the attacking zone, yet the strong Rays’ defence foiled a lot of scoring opportunities.
The home fans were aching for a win and a driving maul provided them with the final score of the match, as Jono Hayes held on to the back of the dominant maul, driving the final metre with only his captains assistance. Teki left the final points out there, but the Rams still managed to earned their first ‘W’ of the season.
The Rams finally took home the goodies.
Full time: Greater Sydney Rams 23 – 21 North Harbour Rays
THE GAME CHANGER
The game changer came in the 71st minute, when the Rams reaped the benefits of the consistent pressure that they had mounted in the second half. It was Jono Hayes who finished off the driving maul, but the credit should go to everyone on the field for the Rams in the back end of the game.
THREE. TWO. ONE
3 Points- Cohan Masson was everywhere for the Rams, scoring himself a brace of tries whilst making his presence felt in both attack and defence throughout the match.
2 Points- Paul Asquith answered the call for the Rams, playing his fourth position of the season. He was a constant threat with ball in hand, tearing holes in the defensive line, passing well as well as providing leadership for the threatening backline.
1 Point- Harry Bergelin was the best for the Rays with and without the ball.