Gallant Spirit fight to end in nailbiter
THE Perth Spirit suffered a heartbreaking threepoint loss to the North Harbour Rays last Saturday night, defeated 29- 32 in round five of Buildcorp National Rugby Championship (NRC).
It was a tightly-fought match with the lead changing numerous times and both sides crossing for four tries.
The Rays notched up the first points when Harry Bergelin took the ball off the back of the lineout and mauled it over, but the Spirit evened the score not long after when they sent the ball infield to find Ammon Matuauto, who crossed under the posts. Zack Holmes slotted the easy conversion.
The Spirit pulled ahead 16-8 when Holmes converted his own try after the backs combined with a flowing piece of play to send him over, but the lead was clawed back when the Rays’ Sam Ward crossed in identical circumstances to their first try. Hamish Angus slotted the extras to take it to 16-all.
The Rays took a 24-16 lead after the half-time break when Ward and Angus combined again.
With 28 minutes remaining in the match, the Rays were down to 14 men after Boyd Killingworth was sent off for slowing the ball down and the Spirit capitalised.
They spread it wide and the player overlap saw Matuauto dot it down for his second in the corner to get the away side within three points.
The Perth side found themselves short when Va’a Mailei was binned, but they kept their defence tight to steal the Rays lineout.
With a man down, the Spirit were still able to find the space out wide when Luke Burton sent a long pass out to Dillyn Leyds on the wing who crossed for his fifth try of the tournament.
Holmes’ conversion put the Spirit ahead 29-24 with 15 minutes to go.
The Spirit worked the play back down field and looked to be over again when captain Savage went over but the scrambling Rays defence held it up.
With just under 10 minutes on the clock, Ward crossed for his hat-trick in the corner and Angus maintained his flawless kicking to put them ahead 32-29.