A Kirra Dibb Player-of-the-Match performance helped NSW Country go back-to-back with an 18-12 win over NSW City at Kogarah’s Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on Thursday night.
Dibb’s fingerprints were all over the match. She had two try assists, didn’t miss a shot at goal, and her positional kicks meant her game-management was second to none.
“Our halves in Kirra and Jocelyn (Kelleher) got us really nice movement throughout the game and the forwards just ripped in putting their heads where some people wouldn’t put their feet,” said Country coach Ruan Sims.
Sims was at Country’s helm in the upset 14-6 win over City in 2022. Tonight’s result showed that win was no fluke.
“Yes we had three tries scored on us in that first half but it wasn’t an insurmountable lead,” she said.
“We needed to show some real grit, determination and willingness to work hard. And we did that to claw our way back.”
It was 12-6 in City’s favour at half-time after they took a 12-0 lead after just 11 minutes.
City’s first try in the second minute came via a routine right-edge movement, which winger Cassie Staples finished off.
Five minutes later halfback Tayla Preston caught the Country defence napping and scored easily, before back rower Monalisa Soliola out on the left edge punched through for City’s third.
Preston didn’t have much luck with three missed conversions, but at 12-0 it seemed City was going to run away with the match.
The turning point came when Country winger Teagan Berry scored a 95m intercept try, which Dibb converted.
Sky Blues captain Kezie Apps came off Country’s bench after that four-pointer and her presence made a difference.
“That was the message I sent down after Teagan’s try – we need to latch onto this because that’s the shot in the arm we needed to get back into the game,” Sims said.
“Kezie’s voice and leadership and some of those hits helped us turn the tables.”
Even City coach Kate Mullaly felt Berry’s long-range try was the turning point.
“It was literally that momentum swing they needed and they rolled with it,” Mullaly said.
“We tried to get things back in our favour for the rest of the game. I’m so proud of the girls as they never stopped trying.
“We scored the equal amount of tries to them – our kicks just weren’t there. But the City girls are a young bunch and they will learn from this.”
Dibb’s kicking game kept turning the City defenders around and at half-time it was anyone’s game.
Dibb was in the thick of things early in the second half, getting her arms free for an offload to prop Ellie Johnston and then converting the four-pointer to draw scores level 12-12 after 42 minutes.
Another try assist for Dibb – a corner kick for Berry to grab her second – put Country in the lead (18-12) for the first time after 53 minutes.
Then the arm wrestle really began with City hooker Quincy Dodd and her backrowers in Soliola, Shaylee Bent and Brooke Anderson working hard to get their teammates on the front foot.
But props Viena Tinao, Ellie Johnston and Tayla Predebon were immense for Country, as was young fullback Jada Taylor who took some brave takes on her own goal-line by smothering the ball.