What they said… Greater Sydney Rams v Queensland Country

QUEENSLAND COUNTRY 57 (Filipo Daugunu 4, Duncan Paia’aua, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Izaia Perese, Harry Hockings, Jock Campbell tries; James Tuttle 6 cons) defeated GREATER SYDNEY RAMS 31 (Nick Phipps, Hugh Roach, John Grant, Dennis Pili-Gaitau, Kotoni Ale tries; Mack Mason 3 cons) HT 26-14

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If you’d told the Greater Sydney Rams coaching team before kick-off that they would go down by the same scoreline and in much the same manner against Queensland Country as they had done against the Fijian Drua the previous weekend, you’d have come away with some pretty sore ears. But alas, that was their fate again, after competing well for large parts of this clash only to undo a lot of their good work with sloppy play, missed tackles and turnovers.

Take nothing away from Queensland Country. They deserved the win over the 80 minutes, and in skipper Duncan Paia’aua and centre partner Chris Feauai-Sautia, they had the game-breakers to make a difference, and in Wallaby squad member Izaia Perese and Fijian wing sensation Filipo Daugunu – who bagged a four-try haul – they certainly had the players to punish the mistakes offered up from the home side. But having fought back to trail 40-31 with 10 minutes remaining, the fact that the Rams ended up going down by a 26pt margin will imbue some painful reflection this week.

Behind the Ruck was at a sunny TG Millner Field in Sydney to grab the post-match reactions of both head coaches, Brad Thorn and John Manenti.

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Brad Thorn (Queensland Country head coach):

“They’re such a young group and there’s so much talent there but there’s still plenty for them to work on. Not finding touch from a penalty or sometimes overplaying, such as one of our front-rowers trying to throw a flick pass behind his back – there’s an exuberance there and a youth there, and as you can see, we’ve got points in us. But they’ll learn from each game and it’s about that maturing process I guess.

“I’m big on defence, and the boys do put their bodies on the line and they do work hard on their ‘d’. But some of that overplaying, and things like rolling the ball away when the Rams got a penalty and being marched back another 15 metres, stuff like that can add up to them being down in your 22, and if they get a rolling maul going it’s hard to stop those points. It’s not that they’re not having a go, but if you keep inviting a team down there sometimes you do give away points.

Greater Sydney Rams v Queensland Country NRC Rnd 7 2017

Queensland Country scrumhalf James Tuttle clears from a scrum – Photo: J.B Photography

“It was looking a bit ropey at one point there, and it shouldn’t have been. But we’ve got two 19-year-old locks; a 19-year-old five-eight; a 19-year-old openside flanker, and a whole heap of 20-year-olds so, they’re doing ok aren’t they! They’re playing against men, and against a lot of big guys in that Rams team, so I’m really proud of them. I understand where they’re at, and I think they’re doing pretty well. The captain, Duncan Paia’aua, I think he’s the player of the comp personally. He’s leading the way and even he’s a youngster. He’s 22 and he’s the like the old dog!

“I’m pleased with how it’s going now, and if we can get to that point, it would be a massive achievement just to make the finals. I haven’t really talked to them about finals or anything, it’s very much been one game at a time. But it was a record when we won back-to-back games – Queensland Country had never done that before – and now every week is a record for us! I’ve always been a big believer that finals footy is another competition, so we’ll see what these young boys can do and once again, it’ll be a first if they do get there. We’ve got two more games and if we make it, we’ll just approach that then. We’ll play to win and we’ll see where it takes us.”

John Manenti (Greater Sydney Rams head coach):

“The nature of this competition is that once you get ahead, it’s easy to put teams away. But it broke my heart when they scored another intercept against the flow of the game near the end. I could feel it, you could see it, we were on top at that point and if we’d scored next, who knows? But at the end of the day, we lost 21pts from intercepts. The first attack of the game we’re looking ok and they go 80 metres. The first try of the second half, if Jed [Holloway] draws and passes we score under the sticks, but we turn the ball over and they go 80 metres and score. There’s only so much you can gift a top team and there’s only so many times you can back up from that because emotionally, it just kills you.

“We score one of those tries around that period, we could have been in reasonable shape. But it’s a fact of rugby life, you can’t keep turning the ball over against these sides. We knew the Fijians were going to do that last week and it was no different today. Their two centres are very powerful boys and the wingers too, but we fell off some soft tackles and you can’t hide from that. The quality of the teams you’re up against makes it difficult, and where did they hurt us today? At 12 and 13, where they’re both Super Rugby players. And the difference between good club footy players and good Super Rugby players is their consistency of performance, and that they make those tackles.

Jed Holloway_Rams v QLD Ctry_2017 NRC_SG

Rams skipper Jed Holloway carries the fight – Photo: Serge Gonzalez

“With the exception of the Perth game, we’ve been in it every week. Against Melbourne we got it back to within a try and against the Drua we were 31-all, but slow starts have killed us. I’d like to have had the side I had out there today for the most part, but everyone’s suffering and everyone’s had injuries. The hardest thing for us is that now, we know we can’t make the finals so we’re not playing for anything. That’s not an easy thing, and I’m certainly not used to coaching guys that aren’t in with a chance of winning the competition, so we’ve got to accept that there is a bit of pride on the line here.

“Obviously, we can only control what we do, we can’t control what the other teams are doing. But we always said that we wanted to be the top New South Wales team, and we’ve still got a chance of doing that. There’s disappointment for the boys because I just don’t think that the effort from them and the way we have played has been reflected on the scoreboard. So I just challenged them in the sheds and asked them ‘What do you do from here – do you roll your toes up or keep fighting?’”

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