Jono Lance confident he can overcome injury and his former team in NRC decider
Perth Spirit flyhalf Jono Lance is confident he can overcome a hamstring injury in time to face his former side in the National Rugby Championship decider in Tamworth on Saturday night.
Lance missed last weekend’s semi final victory over the Sydney Rays, but the former NSW Country playmaker appears to be on track to return for the final.
“I’m pretty confident, there are a few things I still need to tick off but I’ll be doing everything I can to be available. I’ve got family that live in Tamworth so to play a final there will be pretty special,” he said earlier this week.
“There is no strain or anything I’ve just had some tightness from a hip pointer injury that I had a few weeks ago and as a result of that my hammy is quite tight, so I’ve just got to get through training and then we’ll go from there. I ran earlier in the week and did some hammy strength testing and that all went well.”
Lance was a standout for NSW Country in 2015 and was named NRC player of the year, before linking with the Western Force ahead of the 2016 Super Rugby season.
Although a pectoral injury disrupted his Super campaign, the Canberra product has once again found his best form in the NRC.
“It’s a good fun competition and I think it reminds guys why they play rugby. You get a chance to get some match fitness and play plenty of games which was great for me after my injury in Super Rugby. But you also get a chance to play with guys from club rugby who are trying to take that next step and that’s one of the things I really enjoy about the NRC.
“It’s important for the Spirit to go well. I know last year, personally I had a good NRC and that gave me lots of confidence going into pre-season and I think a lot of the Spirit/Force players will be the same this year.”
Lance and the 2015 Eagles fell one game short of the playoffs last year, but NSW Country have been the big improvers this season and the minor premiers head into Saturday’s final as rightful favourites.
“I’m good mates with a lot of them and I get along really well with their coach Darren Coleman. We played them a few weeks ago and they got the better of us but I think we are playing better rugby now.
“They are a good side and they’ve been the benchmark all season but I think the mighty Spirit are hitting their straps at the right time.”
While Perth have more Super Rugby experience than the Eagles, the NSW Country backline is littered with future stars and Lance said he was expecting a fairly high scoring affair in the final.
“Obviously early on in the game things will be a little tighter because it is finals but towards the end of each half, I think it will open up as players get fatigued. The challenge for us will be to contain them because they have some real flyers out wide and Jake Gordon has been fantastic at No.9, so our defensive line will need to be solid.
“They’ve scored a lot of their points at the back end of each half, so there will be a lot of pressure on us to lift in those key moments when they are trying to build that momentum. If we play well enough with our set piece and field position, hopefully we can nullify that.”
After a frustrating season with the Force, Lance said an NRC premiership would be an ideal way to kick start their 2017 Super Rugby campaign.
“Winning is a habit and so is losing and I think it is important for a side to learn what it takes to win as a team. If we can win this weekend, we can begin to rebuild a winning culture in Perth and I think the Force will benefit from that.