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.
They’ll play the Perth Spirit, who in Sunday’s second semi-final, defeated the Sydney Rays 42-24.
It will be the second game the Eagles have played in Tamworth this season after they tackled the Rising at Tamworth Rugby Park back in the third round of the competition.
Eagles general manager Peter Playford said there were a few factors that contributed to Tamworth being awarded the final.
Among them was the reception they received the Rising game.
“The whole town was very accommodating,” he said.
“Tamworth has really embraced the Eagles.”
It will be their third game in Tamworth in the three years of the competition and Playford’s vision is to host at least a game in Tamworth annually.
With Fox Sports broadcasting the game and, the only week turnaround, they also needed a venue ready and with the facilities to host such a big game.
“The last two grand finals have been at Ballymore,” Playford said.
“We always said if we made the grand final we’d take it to the bush.”
Things were looking shaky for the Eagles early on Saturday with the Rising jumping up to a 16-nil lead inside the first 10 minutes.
“Then we put on six unanswered tries,” Playford said.
After scoring his first try of this years NRC the previous week, Eagles skipper, and Tamworth boy, Paddy Ryan had a memorable hand in one of those, producing an offload straight out of the top drawer to set Sam Figg up for his second try.
Backing up in support of half-back Jake Gordon, after he swooped on a loose ball from a Rising lineout, Ryan flicked a pass - one-handed – across his body.
The try put the Eagles ahead 28-16 at half-time and they were never headed from there.
“I’m very happy, but you don’t want to get ahead of yourself,” Ryan said after the win.
“Clichés in rugby come out for a reason, and that’s because a lot of them ring very true. If we start getting ahead ourselves, then we will fall at the last hurdle.”
The final program for Saturday is still being finalised but Playford is looking to bring in big screens so spectators can watch the Aussie womens test against the Kiwis and the third Bledisloe.
Tickets are available through West Tamworth Leagues Club at $10 for general admission and $20 for a seat in the stand.