The opening round of the 2017 NRC with the Rising travelling to Perth to meet the Spirit in a replay of the opening round fixture of last years competition. The conditions were spot on for a great game and one ensued.
The crowd was invited to take the field and hour before the kick in an extended game of Viva7s with a mix of boys and girls playing against mums and dads, good idea in getting family involvement on the day, the invited food trucks lined up at the top of the Hill, and the crowd started to move in.
At first it seemed that it may be a bit light considering it was Father’s day and that Veterans rugby carnivals were happening at other grounds, but within a blink the ‘Hill was Filled’, estimates around a solid 4000.
A good game of rugby with both teams attacking everything at pace. Perth Spirit always seemed in control, but the crowd held its breath every time the Risings’ backline got the ball in hand.
Started with 2 real quick tries to the Road Safety, Property Powerhouse Perth Spirit (just putting the full sponsorship name out there, as everyone is getting behind rugby in the West and putting their money forward) and the crowd was figuring a cricket score was about to happen. The Rising had barely touched the ball and were 14-0 down.
First try scored by Isi Naisarani off the hard work and lead up by Isi Naisarani – the young lad quickly developing a chant of GOoo ISIIII! Every time he touches the ball.
The second 5 pointer – we are back to the old money – from good phase work and a willing to move the ball all over the park by Tetera Faulkner. Lance with the extras
Rising took a breath and re-focused, got hold of the ball and made some in-roads – but the Spirit looked to be away for their 3rd with an intercept by Billy Meakes, but to be called back for being offside. Thank fully for the Rising fans, as as bais as this may sound if the try had been scored it would have been 21-0 in the 15 mins and it may have been the death of the game.
Rising started to claw back and went on the attack. Although at first making king hard work of it the Rising were crashing it up slowly, but going forward – ball in hand. After a sustained attack and a couple of line outs in the corner, Rising scored through 12 Sione Tuipulotu smashing hard at a gap on the line – Jack McGregor converting to make it 14-7.
The kick off was deep, collected by 13 Hunter Paisami who went hard through an opening offloaded to a sprinting 15 Jack Maddocks coming hard in support on a beautiful line found space taking the ball up field, passed to 14 Marika Koroibete…very quick in real life, very quick – to score his first of a couple.
14-14 All and game on!! 20 mins in! What an opening quarter!
Spirit hit back with another converted try scored by Pek Cowan, and at this stage you’d be thinking that the defensive systems had been left at home, but not really the case. There was a fair amount of rugby being played, phases and quick ball movement through the hands, all corners of the field being explored etc, but the delight was seeing the players running onto the ball at pace holding their line. Fun rugby.
Finally there was to- and fro-ing from both sides as they settled down a bit and began working out what a) they were doing and b) what they needed to do against the opposition, when we saw break from the Spirit 11 James Verity-Amm up the wing laying the platform for several phases from the home side and a quick flick to Chance Peni to dot it down. The conversion was unsuccessful to give 26-14 and still not at the 30min mark.
The Rising now having a crack put a long kick up field with an error from Ruru giving the Rising an excellent chance at scoring from a set piece scrum 5m out. The ball got moved around a bit – left and right, but no real headway. The referee deciding that after repeated team infringements that Peni needed a breather on the chair. From the penalty Fly-half Jack McGregor pushed for the line scoring and converting his try 26-21 with 10 to go in the half.
In the shadow of half time, slick handling, forward movement, space and an overlap saw Spirit 15 Marcel Brache score in the corner. 31-21
Half time saw further crowd engagement with a drop kicking competition – while the teams huddled on the field for a breather.
After the break a couple changes were made with immediate effect, Jordan Uelese came on and the Rising scrum that had been dominated in the first half got their own back in the second half, but it didn’t take long for the scoring board to tick over again with a long multi pass swing across the field to Verity-Amm to accelerate and dive for the corner. Jono Lance nailing the conversion from the side line in front of the crowd. 38-21.
After a passage of play where nothing seemed to be going right for the Rising, Nic Stirzaker (had a good afternoon to show for himself) took a quick tap – one of many today – sniped hard into the retreating opposition, made a break and found Marika Koroibete whistling at pace down the wing, gave him the ball and watched him disappear to score his second. 38-28
Immediate response from the Spirit with Tetera Faulkner grabbing his 2nd for the day and converted for a scoreline of 45-28.
I sat back and watched the game for a while at this point, but it was moving into the 3/4 stage and players were getting a bit knackered, understandably and the game had been played at a good tempo throughout, however the pace did seem to stall for a short bit and nothing really happened until the Rising got control of themselves and the game, got up into the attacking 22 for a good while when quick ball from Stirzaker to Jack McGregor and a beauty of a flat pass to a straightening Jack Maddocks saw the full back break through contact and score the final points of the game with almost 20mins left. 45-33
A couple changes went a begging in the remainder with most of the rugby being played in the Rising half of the field, with a last foray toward the Spirit line by the Rising being kicked out and the whistle going with the final score being, 45-33 Spirit.
It wasn’t an arm-wrestle, it was exactly what the rugby public of Australia needed on a Father’s day Sunday afternoon. A good fun game of end to end rugby, with the ball being moved through the hands and pace, Forwards grafting and Backs sprinting. More games like that and rugby will very quickly be re-invigorated.
HIGHLIGHT POSITIONAL BATTLE:
The 12’s today were fantastic.
Billy Meakes played at 12, trusting his players around him defensively and working to put his attackers around him in space. He linked, he defended – the hit of the day was his, followed closely by the forward gang hit by the Rising on Ruru early 2nd half. He ran, he made metres.
Sione Tuipulotu was everywhere – he was in rucks, he was on one wing then the other, he was defending, supporting, attacking and scoring – the only negative and this is harsh is that he may have been guilty of try to do too much on the field.
The Game Changer
The first 2 tries for the Spirit set a platform and although the Rising refused to roll over, the Spirit were always in control of this match. After that Rugby was played, and played well, but no individual moment that changed any outcome of the match.
The GAGR MOTM
Matt Philip – got stuck into everything, assisted in everything, ran, carried, tackled, rucked, mauled – big game. Just lovely seeing a tight forward 2nd rower flattening a mountain of work on the field.
OZ Baabaa Watch
Unfortunately trying to find out who is and who isn’t contracted between the Spirit and the Rising is a tough one at the minute, but want to point out that a lot of the Rising backline are very young, around the 20yr old mark and showed good account of themselves today.
WHAT WE WANT TO SEE:
The outside backs today were Rapid, with a capital “R”.
At the end of the NRC we the public need to see a sprint between the fastest players in Rugby Union in Australia.
Road Safety Perth Spirit vs Melbourne Rising, McGillivray, Perth
PERTH SPIRIT 45 (Tries: Naisarani, Faulkner 2, Cowan, Peni, Brache, Verity-Amm; Cons: Lance 5; Yellow cards: Peni (29′))
MELBOURNE RISING 33 (Tries: Tuipulotu, Koroibete 2, McGregor, Maddocks; Cons: McGregor 4)