NSW Country hold off Stars in Tamworth heat
By Tom Greenaway
The NSW Country Eagles have defeated competition front- runners the Sydney Stars 37-31 on a scorching day at Chillingworth Oval in Tamworth.
Coming off a bye, the Eagles looked revitalised as they tussled with a strong Stars outfit who earned a bonus point for their efforts.
Jono Lance opened the Eagles’ account, piercing over close to the line after a weaving run from Charlie Clifton put the home side in good field position.
It was Lance setting up Clifton for the Eagles second try, with the flyhalf popping off a nice inside ball to the outside centre close to the line, who produced a left foot step to cross over for his first try of the 2015 season. Both tries were converted by Lance and the Eagles led 16-0 after twenty minutes.
The Stars got off the board five minutes before the half, after Mitch Whitely picked up off the back of a rumbling scrum close to the Eagles line and unselfishly handed off to scrumhalf Jake Gordon.
The Stars scrum was on show again for their second try, after a period of pressure five metres out from the Country line was eventually capitalised on by Whitely, dotting down his sides second score 3 minutes past the hooter.
Stars flyhalf Angus Roberts converted one of two, and the Eagles went into the half up 16-13.
Jono Lance was in the thick of it straight after halftime, as the Waratahs utility showed class in producing a fine individual try, through a nifty chip, chase and regather effort which saw him cross in the corner.
Charlie Clifton bagged his second of the day minutes after, following a nice break from lock Sam Lousi who popped off to Clifton close to the line. Lance converted, leaving the Eagles up 29-13 ten minutes into the second half.
The Sydney outfit hit back swiftly with two scores of their own, as winger Harry Jones tip toed down the left side of the Eagles defence on both occasions to bag his third and fourth tries of the season.
Country replied in turn through number eight Sam Figg, whose try seemingly put the game out of reach for the Stars at 37-26 with five to go.
The Stars had one more scoring effort in them as breakaway Michael Kovacic burrowed over just before the hooter, bringing the scores to 37-31.
The scores remained this way as the Eagles picked up their second win of the campaign, handing the Stars their first loss in 2015.
The Eagles go up to face Brisbane City at Ballymore in round 5 of the NRC, and the Sydney Stars head to Canberra to face the Vikings.