The Melbourne Rising left it late but managed to score a dramatic 37-36 win over the Greater Sydney Rams in Round Five of the 2015 Buildcorp National Rugby Championship (NRC), at the LaTrobe City Sports & Entertainment Stadium in Morwell.
With perfect weather and the playing surface in pristine condition, the Rising were aiming to make Morwell a happy hunting ground however found themselves down 36-21 with full time approaching. Fortunately, two converted tries in the final minutes saw the home side steal victory and maintain their top-four spot on the NRC ladder.
Down 13-5 at halftime, the Rising stormed into the lead with two quick tries to Tom English and Jonah Placid before the visitors piled on four tries of their own to build what appeared to be a match-winning lead before Melbourne’s last minute heroics.
The Rising found themselves under early pressure, forced to defend as the Rams dominated early possession, but held firm with some stout defending and a long clearing kick from an unlikely source in Captain Colby Fainga’a.
Melbourne almost scored the opening try in the 10th minute when a slick backline move put Stacey Ili into a gap close to the Rams line, but his final pass just floated out of the reach of centre Dom Shipperley.
Minutes later, the Rising were down a man with Filipe Vilitati shown a yellow card for no arms in the tackle, the Rams capitalising with Jed Gillespie crossing out wide for the first points of the match.
Lopeti Timani soon joined Vilitati on the sideline with the referee producing his second yellow card of the day but despite being two men down, the Rising sparked into action with some fine counter attack from deep in their own half.
Vilitati made an immediate impact when he returned to the field, his dash down the sideline setting up good field position before a driving maul allowed Fainga’a to level the scores after 30 minutes.
The Rams responded with a set piece from a lineout deep in Rising territory, Marcus Carbone on hand to finish off under the posts to give his side a 13-5 lead.
The Rising appeared poised to level things up on the stroke of halftime with great field position and Rams captain Jed Holloway shown a yellow card, but the Rams shut down the Rising’s final attack to go into the main break ahead by a converted try.
The second half began with replacement winger English touching down and a booming sideline conversion from Jack Debreczeni levelled the score at 13-all. Fullback Placid then found space in the Rams’ 22 and stepped his way to the line for another converted try and a 21-13 lead.
Behind for the first time in the match, the visitors hit back with some sparkling Rugby to score the next four tries and build a handy lead. Centre Michael McDougall finished off a fine counter attack move to level the scores then Holloway, back from his stint on the sideline, scored a double before McDougall’s second try put the Rams in front 36-21.
With their backs against the wall, the Rising produced their best Rugby to stretch the Rams defence and Debreczeni’s inside pass set up flanker Jordy Reid to barge over the line for a converted try that gave his side hope.
With time running out, the Rising went on the attack again and fast hands out wide sent English over for his second try, Debreczeni nailing the pressure conversion to win the game.
Melbourne Rising Head Coach Zane Hilton said that while he was pleased to see his side snatch a dramatic victory, he wasn’t pleased with the performance.
“We are going to have to play a lot better than that to go anywhere near reaching our targets in this competition,” Hilton said. “While the boys showed great heart to play the full 80 minutes, there’s no doubt that the Rams dominated us in the key facets of the game.
“They beat us in the physicality stakes, they executed their set piece better and they had better energy.”
Hilton praised his reserves for their impact, including two-try hero English.
“Tom is a great finisher, and he made a real difference out wide in the second half, while I thought Sione Tuipulotu and Mitch Andrews gave us a massive boost when they came on.”
It will leave Hilton with some interesting selection decisions to ponder, as the Melbourne Rising prepare to travel to Western Australia and take on the Perth Spirit next Saturday in Round Six NRC action.
Melbourne Rising 37 (Tries: English 2, Fainga’a, Placid, Reid; Conversions: Debreczeni 4) defeated Greater Sydney Rams 36 (Tries: Holloway 2, McDougall 2, Gillespie, Carbone; Conversions: Ayoub 2)
Source: Melbourne Rising