The Rising have held out the Stars to win 18-10 and earn a place in the NRC Finals.
The equation for both teams is fairly simple here.
The Rising need to win to secure a place in the finals. The Stars need to either win or lose with a bonus point to secure a place in the finals series. Its high stakes Rugby and the make-up of the finals comes down to this match.
Frankston City Oval hosted the crucial match in glorious conditions.
Both teams locked into an early aerial battle, with the Rising wining the early field position. A few early penalties against the stars allowed the Rising to gain field position deep in the Stars territory.
Strong phase play converted into Rising points with a Try to Ben Meehan. At the back of a ruck Ben collected dart of over the line. Credit to the Rising pack, who set up the position after multiple phases. Debreczei missed to conversion, leaving the score at 5 – 0 Rising.
At the restart the Stars collected the ball, but at key times showed poor handling and gifted possession to the Rising. Back in possession, the Rising looked to move the ball out wide. Unfortunately, Jack Debreczei’s pass was intercept by Harry Jones and he ran 40 metres to score in the corner. Angus Roberts missed the conversion and tied the scores up at 5 all.
The Rising kept the pressure on the Stars with a number of attacking raids. Jonah Placid and Dom Shipperley looked good with ball in hand and helped to set good field position. Working from good field position, the Rising were able to regain the lead with another Try. Justin Masters scored in the corner after a wonderful offload from Jordy Reid. Jack Debreczei converted and extended the Rising lead 13 – 5.
The Rising soon extended their lead with another Try. Stacy Ili benefited from some quick hands to run 60 metres and score in the corner. Jack Debreczei missed conversion, leaving the score at 18 – 5.
In the shadows of half time, the Stars hit back with a crucial Try and remain in touch with the Rising. The Stars benefited from an overlap out wide, giving Tom Kingston the space to score in the corner. Angus Roberts missed the conversion, leaving the score at 18 – 10 at the break.
The half was can be best described as a defensive slug fest, with neither team giving any ground. The Stars put immense pressure on the Rising defence early in the half, winning the gain line battle through smart phase football.
In sight of the try line, the Stars looked sure to score but cough up possession. Crucially, the Rising earned the Penalty when a Stars player failed to release the ball. A major win for the Rising defence after absorbing ten minutes of pressure form the Stars.
Both teams could not be split in the remaining twenty minutes of play. The Rising looked the better of the teams, only to lose possession at crucial moments. The Stars had limited opportunity, but poor handling and too much king gifted possession back to the Rising.
Fir the first time, a scoreless half form both teams looked the score at 18 – 10 Rising at full time. Crucially, this meant both team had qualified for the Finals.
The Game Changer
The defensive effort by the Rising to hold out the Stars early in the second half. They absorbed countless attacking raids for ten minutes and eventually forced the Penalty. This type of defence will be crucial if the Rising want to win the competition.
The G&GR MOTM
The Rising backing were strong in this match and were well led by the general Jack Debreczei. Played a mature game with a good balance of kicking and passing. He was crucial in setting up field position for the Masters try.
Oz Baabaa Watch
Sione Tuipulotu continues to impress in the NRC and combined well with Dom Shipperly in the midfield. Stacey Ili was at his lighting best with some great runs and a fine Try after a 60 metre dash.
Score & Scorers
B. Meehan 7'
J. Marsters 31'
S. Ili 37'
J. Debreczeni (1/3) 32'
H. Jones 13'
J. Stewart 40'
A. Roberts (0/2)
Melbourne Rising: 1. Cruze Ah-Nau, 2. Pat Leafa, 3. Duncan Chubb, 4. Sam Jeffries, 5. Lopeti Timani, 6. Luke Jones, 7. Jordy Reid, 8. Colby Fainga’a (c); 9. Ben Meehan, 10. Jack Debreczeni, 11. Stacey Ili, 12. Sione Tuipulotu, 13. Dom Shipperley, 14. Justin Marsters, 15. Jonah Placid. Reserves: 16. Mitch Andrews, 17. Mike Tyler, 18. Tom Moloney, 19. Steve Cummins, 20. Pom Simona, 21. Maradona Farao, 22. Lloyd Johansson, 23. Filipe Vilitati. Coach: Zane Hilton
Sydney Stars: 1. Jeremy Tilse, 2. Tolu Latu, 3. Kirwan Sanday, 4. Tipiloma Kaveinga, 5. Matt Philip, 6 .Rohan O’Regan, 7. Jordan Tuapou, 8. David Hickey (c); 9. Jake Gordon, 10. Angus Roberts, 11. Harry Jones, 12. Tom Carter, 13. Jim Stewart, 14. Guy Porter, 15. Tom Kingston. Reserves: 16. Todd Pearce, 17. Alasdair King, 18. Liam McGrath, 19. Senio Toleafoa, 20. Jake Wainwright, 21. Richard Draper, 22. Jordan McGregor, 23. Andrew Robinson. Coach: Peter Playford.
Photos courtesy of Kevin O’Connor