The Melbourne Rising have prevailed in a hard-fought 23 – 16 victory over the NSW Country Eagles.
What a difference a year can make. During the inaugural 2014 season these two teams lead the competition, only to fall at the semis. Come the 2015 season and both teams are in a neck and neck battle just to make the playoffs. Melbourne Rising need to win their last two games to book a semi-final berth. Any slip up will leave the door open for the other teams, many of who are still mathematically in with a chance. Last time these two teams met in 2014, the Melbourne came out victors 37-16 in Orange, over NSW Country Eagles.
For this part of the Melbourne Rising home game travelling roadshow, we found ourselves for this round 8 clash at Simonds Stadium in South Geelong. Home to the Geelong Cats, this Stadium would have a great atmosphere with a full crowd. Tonight, only a handful of Rugby faithful witnessed what turned out to be a demonstration of tackling of the highest order.
The visitors kicked off and from the start they dominated the Rising and camped themselves down in the Rising 22. It was not long before the Eagles crashed over for a try via Hooker Tom Sexton, who wore the Rising jersey the previous season. Jono Lance added the extra 3 to make the score 8 – 0 to the Eagles.
In another early blow to Rising, fly-half Jack Debreczeni went off injured shortly afterwards, being replaced by “The Big Swede” Lloyd Johansson. This disrupted the Rising’s game plan, however they did soon hit back with a try. Jonah Placid scored in the corner after Mark Baldwin from the Eagles was yellow-carded for a cynical foul. An unsuccessful conversion attempt by Lloyd Johansson left the score at 8 – 5 to the Eagles, where it stayed for the remainder of the half.
Despite the lack of points, there was still plenty of action and controversy. In the 20th minute it looked for all money that Eagles prop Dave Faeo had scored a try. Referee Matt O’Brien however reversed the decision and called for a TMO review.
It was deemed that Faeo had been tackled and subsequently a penalty went to the Rising, letting them off a very big hook.
Despite the Eagles having over 60% of the possession, the Rising held strong with some very big tackles, including some monster hits from Lopeti Timani. One hit was said to have contacted the head of the opposition, leading to a 10 minute visit to the naughty chair for Timani.
Sam Jefferies followed him soon afterwards for repeated infringements, leaving the Rising with only 13 men for several minutes near the end of the 1st half. The Eagles were unable to capitalise on this and when the whistle blew for half time, it was still neck and neck.
While it was all the NSW Country Eagles in the first 40, it was Melbourne Rising who dominated in the second half. It didn’t start off that way, though, with Lloyd Johansson not making 10 metres on the restart. The Eagles soon capitalised, going over for a brilliant converted try soon after, pushing their score out to 16 – 5.
As the 2nd half wore on the Eagles started to wear out, possibly due to all the bit hits they were taking from the Rising. The Rising scrum started to dominate and resulting penalties lead a yellow card for Eagles Prop Dashville Kuate.
The Rising capitalised on the scoreboard, with to Ben Meehan and Coly Fainga’a. Johansson’s wayward boot was hurting the Rising, leaving the score at 16 – 15 to the Eagles.
The Rising soon hit the lead for the first time via a pushover scrum with Fainga’a getting his second for evening. The Rising were able to hold on for the last 8 minutes, giving them a 23-16 win and keeping their finals hopes alive for another week.
The Game Changer
Jack Debreczeni going off early in the game upset the Rising’s game plan. The Eagles dominated for the rest of the 1st half, though were unable to put on the points. Referee Matt O’Brien was very whistle-happy, not afraid to penalise or card the slightest of infringements. The reversing of the Eagles try in the 1st half certainly had an impact of the game. It was the Rising scrum in the second half that put the pressure on the Eagles, allowing the Rising to get the upper hand and the win.
The G&GR MOTM
Lopeti Timani, though he was yellow-carded, was not afraid to tackle anything, delivering some of the biggest hits of the season and preventing the Eagles to put on points.
Jerome McKenzie for the Eagles was impressive, including a long-range try. Sione Tuipulotu continues to impress for the Rising and has been putting his hand up for higher duties.
Attendance: 500 ish
Score & Scorers
Tries: Jonah Placid, Ben Meehan, Colby Fainga’a (2)
Conversions: Lloyd Johansson 0/3, Ben Meehan 1/1
Tries: Tom Sexton, Jarome Mackenzie
Conversions: Jono Lance 2/2
Cards & Citings
 – Yellow – Mark Baldwin (Eagles)
 – Yellow – Lopeti Timani (Rising)
 – Yellow – Sam Jeffries (Rising)
 – Yellow – Dashville Kuate (Eagles)
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.
16. Mitch Andrews, 17. Mike Tyler, 18. Tom Moloney, 19. Steve Cummins, 20. Pom Simona, 21. Maradona Farao, 22. Lloyd Johansson, 23. Filipe Vilitati.
Eagles: 1. Dane Maraki, 2. Tom Sexton, 3. Dave Faeo, 4. Nick Palmer, 5. Tom Staniforth, 6. Beau Robinson, 7. Mark Baldwin, 8. Sam Figg, 9. Mitch Short, 10. Jono Lance, 11. Charlie Clifton, 12. Dave Horwitz, 13. Ed Stubbs, 14. Jarome McKenzie, 15. Andrew Kellaway.
16. Peter Nau, 17. Jerome Vaai, 18. Dashville Kuate, 19. Jock Armstrong, 20. BJ Edwards, 21. Angus Pulver, 22. Tom Merritt, 23. Jack Pennington.