Tamworth will host the National Rugby Championship decider after the NSW Country Eagles defeated the Melbourne Rising 50-24 in Saturday’s semi-final in Newcastle.
The final will be held at Scully Park on Saturday night and will be the Eagles’ second in three seasons.
The Rising had all of the early running on Saturday, using their pace out wide to expose some initial lacklustre defence. Sefa Naivalu threw a delightful dummy to go over untouched in the second minute, before a cheeky lineout move saw Pat Leafa crash over from close range less than five minutes later. All of a sudden it was 16-0 and the Country Eagles were being smashed in all facets of the game.
Sam Figg got the Eagles on the board in the 13th minute, taking a 70m intercept and running away untouched.
The next 10 minutes saw a continuation of the Rising’s superior attacking tempo, a number of steals from Figg and Rowan Perry being the only thing keeping the Eagles in the contest.
But they grafted their way back into the game, and had a number of attacking opportunities thwarted, before Reece Robinson continued his redhot try scoring form, crossing in the 29th minute for his sixth try of the season. Deegan nailed the sideline conversion to level the scores.
Two minutes later, Robinson cleaned up a delightful grubber kick from Deegan, a second try to Figg after some brilliant counter-attack from Jake Gordon and Eagles skipper Paddy Ryan, putting the Eagles ahead 28-16 at the break.
With the wind behind them in the second half, it was the Eagles doing the early attacking, and only some last ditch tackles from Jonah Placid saved them from scoring.
Rohan O’Reegan eventually barged over from close range in the 50th minute to push the score out to 36-16. Ten minutes later, Gordon scored his eighth for the season.
The Rising refused to lie down and crossed through Jordy Reid from a well executed line-out, before Gordon finished off his man of the match performance with his second in the final minute of the game.