Rabbitohs winger, Aaron Gray, grabbed himself four tries in the annual City v Country clash tonight (Sunday), to help his City side to a 44-30 victory over Country in Tamworth.
Playing in his first top-flight representative fixture ever, Gray began the match in the centres, but would go on to score four tries on the wing – two in the first half and two in the second for a personal haul of 16 points. Fellow Rabbitoh, Nathan Brown, also had a solid showing after coming off the bench in the forwards with some solid work on both sides of the ball.
City would suffer an early setback when David Nofoaluma left the field after an accidental crusher following a bomb-diffusion – the catalyst for Gray to shift back out to the wing – and after an evenly-matched opening 14 minutes, it would be Country who would draw first blood through Boyd Cordner.
The back-rower hit a short-ball at speed hunting out wide to crash over for the first points before Jarrod Croker knocked over the conversion attempt to make it 6-0.
But City would turn the tide in a big way after an intercept saw City centre, Ryan Matterson, streak almost 100 metres. Just one tackle later, it would be Gray who would plant the ball down for his first top flight representative try. Sezer converted to equalise the match.
But Gray was only warming up – grabbing his second in quick-succession when he took advantage of a grubber into the in-goal from Bryce Cartwright to take the lead for the City side. Sezer added the extras from out wide to make it 12-0 – the momentum by now firmly resting with City.
Just minutes before half-time, the City onslaught continued when Kyle Lovett finished off some enterprising play to go over under the posts. Sezer made no mistake to make it 18-6 at the break.
On the resumption, City continued their dominance inside the first minute and a half when a Cartwright chip-kick was regathered before landing in the hands of Nathan Peats, who scored under the posts. Sezer’s conversion blew the score out to 24-6.
But the game was about to become even more special for Gray. Less than two minutes after the Peats try, Aaron Gray gathered the crumbs of a failed Country bomb-diffusion, before overpowering two Country defenders on his way to a powerful third try. Sezer continued his dominance with the boot by kicking a booming touch-line conversion to make it 30-6.
The dominance would continue when Josh Mansour raced on the opposite side of the field to bring the score to 34-6.
But a penalty to the Country outfit would be all that was required to help them get back on the board, with Euan Aitken narrowing the gap with his four-pointer. Croker added the extras to make the score a more respectable 34-12 with some 30 minutes in the clash remaining.
The Country fightback continued when Jack De Belin crashed over under the posts while holding the City defence at bay with his vicious palm. Croker converted to make it 34-18.
But leave it to Gray to put City back in the box seat.
The Rabbitoh leapt high above the Country defence to grab his fourth try of the evening ti make it 40-18 with Sezer’s conversion. Ryan Matterson then added a try of his own to make it 44-18.
James Maloney clawed one back for Country with six minutes remaining, while Croker added the extras to make it 44-24. A consolation try to Maloney would make the final score 44-30.
City 44 (Aaron Gray 4, Kyle Lovett, Nathan Peats, Josh Mansour, Ryan Matterson, tries; Aidan Sezer 6 goals)
Country 30 (Boyd Cordner, Euan Aitken, Jack De Belin, James Maloney 2, tries; Jarrod Croker 4 goals)