Bond University Queensland Country has fallen to the Western Force 50-49 in their opening match of the 2019 National Rugby Championship (NRC) season at UWA Sports Park in Perth.
In a high-scoring match, the two sides crossed for a total of 15 tries as Country led up until the 74th minute when the Force stole the lead and held on for a narrow one-point victory.
Queensland Country head coach Rod Seib said: “Very disappointing to lose by one-point after leading for the majority of the game.
“Certainly both teams have a lot to work on defensively which was evident by the score-line, but we showed we are a team who can score points from anywhere as we look to treasure possession and build pressure through repeat phases.
“It’s disappointing we lost a man to a yellow card, but collectively as a group we need to recognise there’s areas of our game we need to improve, but Filipo (Daugunu) is an electric player and you can see just how dangerous he was today putting on a lot of points.
“Defence will be a big focus for us. The Vikings are a strong attacking force, so we’ll have to be a lot better next week ahead of our Round 2 clash against Canberra,” said Seib.
Country came out firing, as Joey Fittock found the line after just two minutes of play.
The Force soon replied to level the score at seven-all, before the visitors found their second just three minutes later through Patrick James.
In a see-saw battle, the two sides traded two more tries each in an electrifying eight-minute passage – highlighted by a double to Country’s Fijian flyer Filipo Daugunu.
Following some excellent lead-up play sparked by scrumhalf Tate McDermott, lock Angus Blyth crashed over for Queensland Country’s fifth try as Rohan Saifoloi continued his perfect afternoon with the boot to make it 35-19 after 29 minutes.
The home side cut Country’s advantage to nine in the 34th minute when Carlo Tizzano crossed, as the visitors took a 35-26 lead at the break following a nine-try first half.
McDermott continued Country’s try scoring spree just four minutes into the second half following a lovely line break from Daugunu.
Just like they did in the first forty, the Force hit straight back to reduce the margin back to nine.
Country quickly responded as Daugunu found Saifoli at speed who dived under the posts and converted his own try to push the lead out to 49-33 after 52 minutes.
Needing to stem the flow of Country’s scoring rate, the Force bagged back-to-back tries for the first time in the match through Fergus Lee-Warner and a second to Nick Jooste to trail 49-45 in the 63rd minute.
With eight minutes remaining, Country was dealt a big blow when Daugunu was handed a yellow card for a deliberate knock-down.
The Force soon capitalised as Andrew Deegan found Jonah Placid with a perfectly weighted cross-field kick to hit the lead for the first time in the match. Ian Prior missed the conversion from out wide, as the home side took a 50-49 advantage inside the final five minutes.
Down a man, Country fought bravely and continued to pressure the Force’s line but couldn’t stage a last-ditch comeback as the home side held for a one-point win.
Bond University plays host to a Queensland double-header in Round 2, as Brisbane City square off against the Sydney Rays at 1:00pm before Queensland Country take on the Canberra Vikings at 3:00pm.