NRC leaders the Melbourne rising faced a strong Perth Spirit team, determined to make up for last week’s loss.
The Rising entered the stadium to the sound of rock music, in a puff of pink smoke. Much was expected of the league leaders after last week’s demolition of Brisbane City, but the early exchanges were in Perth’s favour.
The Spirit’s kick off was fielded deep by Melbourne Captain Nick Strizaker who had the ball turned over. While winning it back the Rising found it hard to get out of their own half due to good play by the visitors.
After ten minutes Perth got a roll on and put 14 phases on deep in Rising territory. Unable to legally repel, the hosts infringed and Perth number 8 Alex Rovira opened the scoring from the ensuing scrum after Melbourne pushed early from right in front of the sticks.
A converted try down the home team seemed to spring to life. Immediately they got the ball down the other end through Jack Debreczeni’s impressive boot and good forward pressure secured it. After a couple of close range scrums Lopeti Timani went over after a neat short ball from Stirzaker. Debreczeni made it eight all with the conversion with 25 minutes gone.
Almost immediately the Rising were in again, this time it was a great move through the hands with Veainu finishing a great offload from full back Placid, who was unfortunately injured in the process. Two minutes later Joe Kamana scored the third try for Melbourne from a well weighted Debreczeni grubber and it looked like we might be in for a landslide.
Placid’s replacement Tom English fresh off his four try haul last week was proving a handful. But he wasn’t the only one, only some poor handling from the hosts saved the Spirit from going further behind. Rising open side McMahon was especially busy but had the ignominy of ending the half by knocking on with the try line at his mercy.
So it was 18-8 to the hosts at half time, the most telling statistic being the Spirit’s 25 missed tackles to the Rising’s 6.
The second half started scrappily with neither team making many inroads, this time though the Rising had the territory. Perth rode their luck and with a booming clearing kick standing up Melbourne’s full back, Perth winger Brad Lacey snatched the ball away and ran thirty metres untouched to put Perth back in touch. The successful conversion put them within two, 18-16 with 49 minutes gone.
The game was to turn again rapidly though, with barely a minute more gone Perth lock Brent Murphy was given a yellow card for a lifting tackle which was technically correct, if a little unfortunate for the Spirit.
From here Melbourne seemed to flick the switch again. A push over try saw Timani get his second of the night. Neville then went straight through after some good build up play from McMahon. By now the score was 31-16 and it would have been worse if Melbourne could have converted better.
The best try of the night came from Veainu. His second was a first phase move that saw Debreczeni grubber through to the winger, a deft inside offload put Veainu into space with only the full back to beat. All night he was beating defenders with his step and this was no different. Dotting down untouched, the move beginning in the oppositions half.
Perth refused to give up and their relentless attack resulted in Melbourne substitute Pom Simona getting a yellow for hands in the ruck. But they still couldn’t capitalise, in fact a tight head to the Rising saw Burgess sneak a try up the other end.
With time running out Perth stuck to their guns managing what was ultimately a consolation try through Zack Holmes. The final score 44-24, Melbourne once again outclassing an opponent and still unbeaten on top of the NRC ladder.
The Game Changer
After getting back to within two points with half an hour to play, Perth lock Brent Murphy got sin binned for a somewhat innocuous looking lifting tackle.
The G&GR MOTM
Telusa Veainu, amazing stepping. Got two tries including the try of the NRC (so far) and was consistently beating defenders all night.
Players to watch
English was great off the bench. Debreczeni kicked very well in general play. The whole tight five for the Rising, the scrum dominated whenever they remembered not to push early, special mention to Toby Smith who probably did the most work of anyone.
Score & ScorersRising: 44
Tries:Lopeti Timani 2, Telusa Veainu 2, Caderyn Neville, Luke Burgess, Joe Kamana
Conversions: Jack Debreczeni 1/3 Veaniu 1/2 Johansson 1/2
Yellow Cards: Pom Simona 67min Spirit: 24
Tries:Alex Rovira, Brad Lacey, Zach Holmes
Conversions: Luke Burton 3/3
Yellow Cards: Brad Murphy 50min