The third round of the NRC 2019 finished with what has become a bit of a grudge match between the Western Force and the Melbourne Rising in Perth. The teams came into the round with polar opposite form with Rising yet to notch a win and the Force two from two and keen to keep their run going. It looked promising for the Force when they crossed the chalk in the fourth minute of the game for the opening try in the corner, but an almost immediate reply from the Rising let them know that they were in for a challenging afternoon.
Both teams struggled a bit with continuity and ball retention in the backs during the first half as the forwards had a massive battle and both sides heaped the pressure on. The Force managed to defend just a little more accurately and held the ball just a little bit better and so managed to convert two more opportunities given to them to go into the break with a handy 19-7 lead.
The Force got the perfect start to the second half with another quick try and the game threatened to break open. But the Rising weren’t done and came back hard at the Force, attacking their line for an extended period before Andrew Deegan had a momentary lapse of reason and cynically knocked an “intercept attempt” to the ground, earning a 10 minute rest in the process. The very next play saw the Rising finally crash over for their second try to stay in the game at 26 – 14. No team would or should feel safe with only a 12 point lead in this competition and with a man advantage the opportunity was ripe for the Rising mount significant pressure on the Force.
The men in blue showed that they had learnt their lessons from the try for try shoot-out with QLD Country in round 1 and dug in well as the Rising increased their pressure, not conceding another point while a man down. In fact, the Force were able to gain field position just before Deegans 10 minute absence ended and used their devastating rolling maul to excellent effect, rolling across for another try to extend the lead back out to 19 at 33 – 14.
With the full complement back, the match evened out again. Some nice backline play saw the Rising peg one back through Vaauli Faamausili before the Force managed to seal the win with a rampaging try to Johan Bardoul moments before full time. The Force taking a deserved victory in the end with a scoreline which is perhaps a little harsh on a valiant Rising team.
The Force ended with 6 tries to 3 for the Rising, but the match always felt closer than that. It was only desperation in defence and an ability to convert the few opportunities given that separated the two teams.
This was quite an entertaining match. There was a wonderful battle in the forwards with each team claiming ascendency at some stage. Each side managed to win a tight head penalty at scrum time, Melbourne had the better of the line-outs while the Force rolling maul seemed almost impossible to stop at times. The turning point of the match was when Andrew Deegan went off with a yellow card. The Force managed to hold their advantage during this time, with both teams scoring a try while Deegan was in the bin. The Rising needed to take advantage during those 10 mins, but were unable to. From that point you didn’t feel like they were really threatening the match.
Bryan Rolston from the Force started the first game of the NRC in the centers but has since moved out to the wing. It seems to be a good decision as he featured strongly in the match last week againt the Drua and then this week managed to find the line three times for a hat-trick of tries before half-time. The kid has pace and strength and seems to know where to be, getting on the end of of the right pass or scooping up a loose ball, he took his opportunities when they came without hesitation. One to watch.
Man of the Match:
While both packs were full of good performers, the player who stood out most was Henry Stowers. The young flanker/lock was tireless throughout and contributed solidly to several moments of Force dominance, including two tries through rolling mauls and some very solid defensive hits. He made a nuisance of himself at the breakdown and ran hard all game. In a tight match, it was the kind of performance that can give you that extra few percent you need to get over the top. Honourable mention must go to Richard Hardwick, who fulfilled the same role with Rising but was unable to drag his team over the line this time out.
Western Force: 38
Tries: Byron Ralston 3, Brynard Stander, Andrew Ready, Johan Bardoul
Cons: Ian Prior 4
Melbourne Rising: 19
Tries: Justin Marsters, Richard Hardwick, Vaauli Fa’amausili
Cons: James So’oialo 2