NSW Country Eagles pack can bounce back from ‘dark time’: Johnson-Holmes

THIS WAY: Harry Johnson-Holmes had a tough day out against the Melbourne Rising pack at Mudgee on Saturday. Photo: SIMONE KURTZ
THIS WAY: Harry Johnson-Holmes had a tough day out against the Melbourne Rising pack at Mudgee on Saturday. Photo: SIMONE KURTZ

Out of everyone on the field during Saturday’s National Rugby Championship clash at Glen Willow, arguably no one was under more fire than Eagles prop Harry Johnson-Holmes.

The NSW Country tight-head was up against a mammoth Melbourne Rising front-row and to start off with really battled.

But the Eagles boys rallied somewhat at the set piece to eventually gain some parity at scrum time.

By that point, though, the damage had already been done and flying Rising winger Tom English was more than half-way through his five-try haul and the Melbourne boys had set up what would eventuate into a 62-7 thrashing at Mudgee.

Johnson-Holmes, a Cowra product now in the NSW Waratahs system, says although Saturday’s loss was horribly disappointing the only way is up for the NSW Country outfit.

“I think we’ve got a lot of growing to do and as a new team I think a lot of blokes need to learn how to play together and I’m excited to see how we progress from this pretty dark time,” he said, Saturday’s outing just the Eagles’ second game for 2018.

“I think we’re still relatively new as a team.

“From looking at how well Melbourne gelled today, I’d say their synergy is a better than ours.

“Their combinations have been a long time coming, especially in that backline.”

While the Melbourne group’s collective work at scrum time was also tremendous.

Fereti Sa’aga, Anaru Rangi and Jermaine Ainsley proved immense as a front-row, one up against a more than handy front line in Johnson-Holmes, skipper Paddy Ryan and hooker Mahe Vailanu.

“It was really tough early on,” the Eagles junior said.

“We knew coming into the game that was a platform they liked to play off. Having a penalty advantage to give that licence to throw it around in the backs.

“We took the first 30 minutes to deconstruct what was going on and I think after that we had a pretty cement scrum, which I’m happy with from a front-rower’s point of view.

“It was really tough early on though.”

Still, Johnson-Holmes was thrilled to be back playing in the Central West, an area he cut his teeth in.

“It’s fantastic, the bitter sweet of it all is we scored one try at the end and the standing ovation we got encapsulates what country rugby is all about,” he smiled.

“It’s about having a great day, getting the biccies is a bonus. It’s about the community spirit and coming together for a great day out.

“We’ve been shown noting but great hospitality.”