The Western Sydney Rams traveled to windy Melbourne, upsetting the Rising with a 68-30 demolition, claiming the coveted Horan-Little Shield for the first time.
WHAT WAS THAT?! DID SOMEONE GET THE LICENCE PLATE OF THAT TRUCK THAT JUST ROLLED THROUGH MELBOURNE? WAS IT WSR068?
It was a balmy 23 degrees in Melbourne Sunday afternoon, though it was also blowing a gale down at Harlequin Reserve in Ashwood, the scene of the National Rugby Championship match between Melbourne Rising and the Western Sydney Rams. This was a must-win for Melbourne, if they had any hopes of not only a finals berth, but also a home semi-final. While finals seemed out-of-reach for the Rams, there was the Horan-Little Shield to play for, which the Rising won only the week before when they traveled to Canberra and brought home the bacon. Winning the toss, Melbourne chose to start with the wind, receiving the first kick-off.
Sometimes you just get a feeling from kick-off, how things are going to pan out. A low trajectory kick-off, that may or may not have been intentional, found Sam Jeffries, who manage to knock the ball on, setting up the first scrum of the match. An ensuing penalty kept the Rams camped in the Rising 22 for several minutes and manage to hold out the Rams for a good 8 minutes before Tyrone Viiga crossed the line off a rolling maul for the first try (and his first of 3) of the day.
The Rising managed to hit back in the 16th minute via a try to Mick Snowden, but it would not last long before the Rams hit back via their no. 7, Tupou Sopoaga. Melbourne were able to stay in touch with the Rams for the first 30 minutes or so, helped by a try to Hooker Pat Leafa, however, after a yellow card to Lloyd Johansson with 9 minutes left in the half, the Western Sydney boys took advantage, scoring another two tries before the break via Mitch Walton and Tyrone Viiga.
Half time and the score was 38-16 to the visitors.
The Rising came out firing in the second half and for a brief moment, heading into the wind now, looked like they just might be able to launch one of their famous comebacks – they’ve done it before, right? A double to Rising’s Sione Tuipulotu gave some hope, but his double was all that would be seen from the home team in the second 40, helped by a Yellow card to the Rams’ Luke Smart in the 49th minute.
From there on, the game really opened up for the Rams and the discipline for the Rising fell away, earning them another two yellow cards. One to Alex Toolis in the 60th minute and another to Jack Debreczeni in the 66th, leaving the Rising with only 13 men for a time, putting even more pressure on them.
The Rams capped off an impressive display with a hat trick to Viiga and on full-time, a nail-in-the-coffin try to reserve, Jorda Tuapou. The final whistle could not come soon enough for the home Rising fans, who then watched the Horan-Little Shield be presented to the Western Sydney Rams after only staying a week in Melbourne, though, with weather like this, who could blame it?
THE WRAP UP
I overheard someone say after full-time “was that the same Melbourne Rising that beat Canberra last week?”. Yes, pretty much and it is a real indication of how unpredictable the 2016 version of the NRC has been. With one more round to go, third and forth places are very much still up for grabs, making for an exciting race for the finish. Stay tuned, don’t change that dial…
The Game Changer
It started with the Rams’ kick-off. They played well to the windy conditions, going for a low grubber kick to start the match, which the Rising dutifully knocked on and were under pressure from the start. Some may say that kick-off was a mistake – maybe, but it worked! The Rams never really let up all game and were playing for the Horan-Little Shield. Three yellow cards to the Rising did not help the Melbourne boys’ cause, either.
The G&GR MOTM
The big No. 8 for the Rams, Tyrone Viiga, was instrumental in his team’s win and bagged himself a hat trick of tries for his efforts. Once a Rebel, Paul Asquith, deserves special mention, playing this week at 12 instead of fly-half, seemed more comfortable in this position. Less responsibility but still creating opportunities. His kicking was on point too – despite the terrible wind conditions, he landed 7 from 9.
Oz BAABAA Watch
Tyrone Viiga had a huge game for the Rams and as well as earning himself the GAGR MOTM he also has put himself forward for the Oz Baabaas. No one from the Rising really stood out, though Ikapote Tupai continues to impress.
Tuipulotu (2) 41', 50'
Debreczeni (3/4) 17', 23', 51'
WS Rams: 68
Viiga (3) 9', 40', 67'
Asquith (7/9) 10', 30', 34', 40', 46', 68', 80'
Johansson 32' – YC
Toolis 60' – YC
Debreczeni 67' – YC
Cards:Referee: Ed Martin
Smart 49' – YC
Melbourne Rising: 1. Toby Smith, 2. Pat Leafa 3. Tim Metcher, 4. Sam Jeffries, 5. Steve Cummins, 6. Ikapote Tupai, 7. Sione Taufa, 8. Jordy Reid; 9. Mick Snowden, 10. Jack Debreczeni, 11. Tom English, 12. Lloyd Johansson, 13. Sione Tuipulotu, 14. Dom Shipperley, 15. Jonah Placid. Replacements: 16. Siliva Siliva, 17. Cruze Ah-Nau, 18. Tyrel Lomax, 19. Alex Toolis, 20.* Trevor Hosea, 21. Keisuke Yamada, 22. Isaiah Leota, 23. Ah-Mu Tuimalealiifano. Coach: Zane Hilton.
Western Sydney Rams: 1. Matt Gibbon, 2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 3. David Lolohea, 4.* Filimone Tufui, 5. Senio Toleafoa, 6. Rhys Allen, 7. Tupou Sopoaga, 8. Tyrone Viiga; 9. Waldo Wessels, 10.* Mitchell Walton, 11. Luke Smart, 12.* Paul Asquith (c), 13. Apolosi Latunipulu, 14. Roland-Keni Kotobolavu, 15. Albert Nikoro. Replacements: 16.* Aaron Blacklock, 17. Andrew Tuala, 18. Jack Payne, 19. Thomas Alexander, 20. Jordan Taupou, 21. Harrison Goddard, 22. Selesitino Kalounivale, 23. Vatemo Ravouvou. Coach: John Muggleton.
* Lineup changes