Firebirds run Crusaders 2s close in a scrappy game
But have to settle for a losing bonus point
The Firebirds gave Crusaders a scare, in what could have easily been a win for the away team in a scrappy encounter.
The Firebirds started well, in fact it was well into the first quarter before the home team actually got their hands on the ball, with Rodney Arbon playing his first game in 8 months to the fore making some great breaks in a man of the match performance and scoring twice.
With a dearth of front row forwards, the game was played with uncontested scrums, which in part led to its scrappy nature, with both sides infringing at the rucks, making very stop start, however the Firebirds were first to strike with veteran number eight Noel Jones combining well with Arbon from the base of the scrum, the latter then raced to the line to score.
Crusaders struck back soon after to level the score, using their big forwards to make holes in the Firebirds defences. However, a great break from Jody Metcalf the resulting quick ball allowed scrum half Russ Clarke to release Nathan Pearce who ran an excellent line bisecting two Crusaders defender to put the ball down under the posts to regain a 5 point lead.
Just before the half time break Crusaders cancelled out the deficit with another try and added the extras to take a narrow lead. At half time the Firebirds added some weight and power to the pack with Leo Drinkwater coming on for Matt Lefevre in the second row.
The Firebirds spent large periods of the second period in their own half due mainly to the Howitzer like boot of the Crusaders open-side flanker, who pinned the visitors back with some mighty penalty kicks to touch. Despite this the Firebirds made good progress with some excellent driving play, Drinkwater making some big carries and setting up good field position.
Crusaders stretched their lead to 19-10 with another try this time from the base of the scrum with their number 8 breaking through to score.
Unbowed the Firebirds reduced the deficit to 19-17 with a try from Arbon who was quick to pounce on a loose ball at a lineout on the home team’s 5m line, Matt Ryan adding the extras.
The Firebirds had a chance to take the lead with only a few minutes left on the clock, however the kick just missed the uprights, from the resulting 22m drop out which was launched into the Firebirds 22m a knock on resulted in a scrum, from which Crusaders scored an unconverted try to stretch their lead to 24-17 in what turned out to be the final play of the game.
Team: Jody Metcalf, Nick Roberts, Steffan Harwood, Adam Vincent, Matt Lefevre, Matt Perry, Rodney Arbon, Noel Jones, Russ Clarke, Ben Farrow, Jack Cottingham, Matt Ryan, Nathan Pearce, Mikel Freeman-Pannett, Dale Blackburn Replacements: Leo Drinkwater
Scorers: Rodney Arbon 2T, Nathan Pearce 1T, Matt Ryan 1C
www.osteostasis.com Man of the Match: Rodney Arbon