Scoring their first consecutive win this season, defending premiers Sunnybank battled through a seesawing opening half and missed opportunities to claim a dominant 26-14 win and four-try bonus point against Norths in round eight of Queensland Premier Rugby on Saturday.
In an encounter dominated by tries, both teams struggled to gain the advantage early as they swapped five-pointers, but the Dragons managed to break the trend after halftime, capitalising on Norths’ errors to claim a 14-0 second half and secure the bonus-point win.
After both sides scored upset wins over top five teams in round seven, with Sunnybank toppling the undefeated Brothers and Norths ending Wests’ run of form, they both took the field confident in securing their first back-to-back win of the season.
But, with missed opportunities hindering both sides, Dragons coach Rod Seib said while they’ll take the five competition points their form was a step back from last week’s ground-breaking performance.
“It’s good in the fact that we’ve had back-to-back wins finally, but in saying that I don’t think any of the players were really happy with that performance,” Seib said.
“You could look at it that we got the bonus point win and scored the four tries, so in that respect that’s good and we very much needed it. But, in another respect we probably set ourselves back a little bit after our win against Brothers last week.”
After securing their second win of the season last week, Norths played promisingly in the evenly-matched first half, carrying a two-point lead into the break, but ultimately errors and field position saw the game slip away from the Eagles in the second half.
“I think our decision making in the second half probably wasn’t as good as it should’ve been and we didn’t play field position, which the players train to do and are expected to do, so basically decision making let us down,” Norths coach Michael Bishop said.
“I thought Sunnybank played quite well today and I will say to our boys there was no lack of effort. There was just a few passes we pushed and we took the wrong options sometimes, which really cost us.”
Trading tries in the opening ten minutes, both teams tested the defensive lines early, before hitting a stalemate as they struggled to move the ball out of the middle third of the field.
When instrumental Dragons’ scrumhalf Danny Tusitala buried over the line in the 23rd minute, Norths continued the mirroring trend with centre Kayle Connor bursting through the line and drawing the defenders to put Sebastian Filipe under the posts a few minutes later.
Despite seeing multiple opportunities on the wing, the Dragons couldn’t capitalise late in the half and left the field evenly-poised at halftime with Norths carrying a 14-12 lead.
But, after mounting pressure on the Eagles try-line, Sunnybank broke the back of the match in the 54th minute when winger Peter Lee converted a series of line breaks to take a 19-14 advantage.
Possession then remained entirely with Sunnybank to the whistle, with Rex Tapuai capping off the 26-14 win after solid play at the breakdown in the 70th minute, but spilled balls and missed tackles saw more points go begging late in the half.
“I think we were probably getting carried away and getting ahead of ourselves instead of looking after ball security in contact and our one-on-one tackling was a little disappointing again today, so unless you take care of the fundamentals of the game, there’s no point worrying about the finer points,” Seib said.
Seib, a former fullback, watches the match from behind the posts before studying the sideline footage later to better understand the game, and with next week marking the halfway point of the season the Dragons are eyeing the ladder as they hope to bridge the gap to the top four.
“We certainly do keep an eye on that and we certainly look at forecasting every team’s probable outcomes and then what we need to do,” he said.
“But at this stage we’re in the fortunate position that our destiny is in our hands. If we can win games, we’ll be in finals. If we ever get to the stage where we’re worrying about other teams having to lose, then that’s something we don’t like because it’s out of our hands.”
Sunnybank 26 (N Ah Wong, D Tusitala, P Lee, R Tapuai tries; D Taumata 3 cons) def Norths 14 (S Vala, S Filipe tries; G Connor 2 cons)