Bond University Queensland Country have claimed their third win in as many games, securing a 52-22 win over the Fijian Drua at Mackay’s BB Print Stadium in Round 3 of the National Rugby Championship (NRC).
Country ran in eight tries on a humid afternoon, with outside centre Jordan Petaia finishing the match with a hat-trick, while Jock Campbell crossed for a double.
The 30-point win continues Country’s unbeaten start to the season and sees them sit on top of the ladder on 13 points, with third placed Western Force on 9 points still to play this weekend.
The match didn’t start to plan for Country, as the Fijians ran in the first try through Apete Daveta.
However Country responded with a try of their own just minutes later, St.George Queensland Reds young gun Petaia crossing for his first NRC try.
Petaia received the ball 15 metres out from the Drua line with work to do, before a right foot step and a strong run propelled the Junior Wallaby past the Fijian defence and over the try line to equal the score.
Hamish Stewart slotted the sideline conversion to hand his side a 7-5 lead after the opening ten minutes.
Country soon crossed for their second through skipper Duncan Paia’aua. Stewart made no mistake with the boot, slotting the conversion to give his side a 14-5 lead.
Country’s momentum continued with another try for the Queenslanders, Campbell adding his fourth five-pointer of the season and first of the match. Stewart once again nailed the tough sideline conversion, giving Country a 16-point lead at 21-5.
A professional foul from Frank Lomani followed, the infringement resulting in a yellow-card for the Drua scrumhalf and a one-man advantage for Country.
Lomani’s absence was felt almost immediately for the visitors, Petaia finding a hole in the Fijian defence before sprinting 40-metres down the left sideline to score his second try of the day.
Stewart missed the conversion from out wide, leaving Country ahead 26-5 after 25 minutes of play.
Country continued to make the most of their advantage, Campbell adding his second try after fullback Tom Lucas put the flyer into space down the left sideline.
Country’s dominant first half continued through Petaia once again, the centre capitalising on his side’s overlap to complete his hat-trick in 32nd minute.
Stewart kicked his fourth conversion of the day to put the score out to 38-5.
The Drua hit back in the dying minutes of the first half, the Fijian scrum rolling towards the Country line before a penalty try granted them seven points to narrow the margin to 38-12 at half-time.
After conceding six tries in the first half, the Drua scored the first try of the second half. Fullback Apisalome Waqatabu dove over in the corner, the try putting his side back into the game at 38-17 with half an hour left to play.
However, Queensland Country kicked back into gear, with winger Daugunu beating a number of defenders and bolting almost 40 metres to score after a Paia’aua short ball put the winger into space. Stewart once again converted the try, giving Country a 43-17 lead after 52 minutes.
The Drua were next to score, Ratunaisa Nauma forced his way over close to the line for his side’s fourth try with seven minutes left to play.
Country capped off their afternoon with an eighth try, 18-year-old Harry Wilson charged over after the siren for his first NRC try.
Wilson’s try, and another Stewart conversion, put the final score out to 52-22.
Queensland Country head coach Rod Seib said: “Overall I’m really impressed with how our team performed today. Across the board everyone put in and delivered on what was asked of them.
“We knew we had a tough challenge ahead of us, considering how well Fiji had performed in their opening two matches, but our team rose to the challenge.
“We knew the contact zone was going to be important today, if we could be physical and test them early on we knew we could get some benefit out of that and the score at half-time reflected that.
“Credit to the Drua, they came out in the second half and didn’t gift us possession, but our defence held strong and we came away with the win.”
The match was Country’s first in Mackay, and Seib was grateful to see the locals turn out in support.
“The crowd and the atmosphere at the game was great. Partnering the match with the local grand final meant that we had a host of support from the local Rugby community and that helped lift the team.”
Queensland Country will head south in Round 4 to meet fellow ladder-leaders, the Western Force, at Bond University next Saturday afternoon.
“The season doesn’t get any easier from here,” said Seib.
“The Force have been training together for a long time and will be a well drilled side. We’ll need to be ready for them next week on the Gold Coast.”