The Imagetec Central Coast Rays have done their Mazda Australian Rugby Championship finals hopes no harm, thumping the previously second placed Melbourne Rebels 55-7 at Olympic Park.
The Rays ran in eight tries to one in what was a comprehensive display, never giving their opposition a chance to get into the match.
The Rays scored six of those in a blistering opening half, Beau Robinson and Jye Mullane crossing twice in the opening stanza to see the match sewn up by the break.
Running with a solid breeze at their backs the Rays wasted no time opening their account, Brett Sheehan and Mullane combining to put Ben Jacobs over for a seven-nil lead in just the third minute of play.
The visitors had confidence to burn and soon they made it 12, Robinson exploiting some lax defence to touch down out wide after quarter of an hour.
A Peter Hewat penalty goal was followed by a third try, scored by Mullane in a near-identical position to Robinson’s first five pointer, seeing the Rays lead by 22 points to nil with 15 minutes left to play in the first half.
The bonus point came on the half hour, a sniping run from Sheehan feeding Vili Ratu, who passed in the tackle to Robinson who scored under the posts.
Hewat converted, making it 29-nil in favour of the Rays.
Melbourne’s horror afternoon just got worse when skipper David Croft was yellow carded for a deliberate offside infringement at the ruck, leaving the Rebels to play out the first half with 14 men.
The Rays exploited on the overlap almost immediately, Mullane scoring the easiest of tries off a Sam Norton-Knight long ball.
The flyhalf then got himself in on the action, taking the ball to the line to score next to the posts for a 43-nil half time lead.
The Rebels came out of the break with renewed purpose, and with the Rays losing Robinson to the sin bin for a deliberate ruck infringement Melbourne scored through lock Richard Stanford, taking the score to 43-7.
The next score didn’t come until the 70th minute of the match, prop Ofa Fainga’anuku crashing over for the Rays, while Patrick McCabe touched down out wide in the final minute to take the final score along to 55-7.
Norton-Knight claimed his second straight man of the match award, his try meaning he’s scored in each of the Rays last five games.
The win means the Rays join the Rebels on 20 competition points, with the outcome of next week’s clash with the Sydney Fleet in Gosford likely to decide the finals fate of both teams.
MAZDA AUSTRALIAN RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP – WEEK SEVEN
IMAGETEC CENTRAL COAST RAYS 55
Tries: Beau Robinson 2, Jye Mullane 2, Ben Jacobs, Sam Norton-Knight, Ofa Fainga’anuku, Patrick McCabe
Conversions: Peter Hewat 6/8
Penalty Goals: Peter Hewat 1/1
MELBOURNE REBELS 7
Tries: Richard Stanford
Conversions: Jack Farrar 1/1
At Olympic Park, Melbourne
Referee: Julian Pritchard
Half Time: Rays 43-nil
Man of the Match: Sam Norton-Knight (Rays)
Yellow Cards: David Croft (Rebels); Beau Robinson (Rays); James Lew (Rebels)