The Melbourne Rising have lost their first match of the 2015 Buildcorp National Rugby Championship (NRC), going down to reigning Premier Brisbane City 21-49 in a rain-soaked affair at Harlequin Rugby Club.
The Melbourne Rising held a 16-5 halftime lead, before the defending premiers showed their attacking class in the second half. Centre Lloyd Johansson was influential at his home ground, whilst flanker Jordy Reid and debutant wingers Stacey Ili and Justin Masters impressed with strong performances.
Rain impeded both sides in the opening exchanges as poor handling and unsure footing plagued any attacking opportunities, however the game broke open after brilliant defensive effort from Leo Taliu on Samu Kerevi saw the Melbourne Rising secure possession deep within the Brisbane City 22.
Excellent hands from scrumhalf Ben Meehan freed up space for flanker Colby Fainga’a, who offloaded brilliantly to flyhalf Jack Debreczeni for the game’s opening try, Debreczeni converting from right on the sideline.
Poor handling plagued both sides before a strong Melbourne Rising lineout allowed Captain Scott Fuglistaller to score from a rolling maul, Debreczeni converting to give the hosts a 16-0 lead.
However, the visitors were not to be denied and scored in a similar fashion moments later, flanker Waita Setu crossing from the back of another rolling maul.
Brisbane City looked set to score through Number 8 (and former Melbourne Rebel) Scott Higginbotham, who was denied by a crunching try line tackle from Johansson and Jonah Placid.
The hosts were stretched even further when Mike Tyler saw yellow just before half time, however scrambling defence from Jordy Reid allowed the Melbourne Rising to clear their line and hit the sheds ahead at 16-5.
Brisbane City burst out in the second half with renewed vigour and intent, with reserve centre Henry Taefu immediately busting the Rising defence to put fullback Junior Lalolifi over under the posts.
Tries to Cadeyrn Neville and Sam Talakai in quick succession had the hosts reeling at 16-29, before another onset of rain saw both teams knuckle down and play for territory.
Huge defensive efforts from Maradona Farao and Jordy Reid and the vocal Harlequin crowd continued to lift the Melbourne Rising, who continually pressed the opposition line, however the saturated conditions and handling errors continued to foil any attacking raids.
Sustained pressure eventually led to debutant Filipe Vilitati crossing for his maiden Melbourne Rising try, however tries to Kerevi and Higginbotham in the final minutes secured the victory for Brisbane City.
Melbourne Rising Head Coach Zane Hilton, whilst disappointed not to get the win, paid tribute to the visiting side and his team for showing their depth and willingness to work for one another.
“I thought our opening thirty minutes was fantastic, but unfortunately we weren’t able to sustain that and Brisbane City are one of the competition’s elite teams; they took advantage of that, he said.
“In a real positive, we had six players make their Melbourne Rising debuts today and not a single one of them looked out of place at this level; they’ll be better for the opportunity.”
The Melbourne Rising head to Sydney on Thursday night to take on the Greater Sydney Rams; the match will be televised live on FOX SPORTS 2 at 7:30pm. Brisbane City, meanwhile, will have the option of putting the Horan-Little Shield up for grabs when they take on Queensland Country in Toowoomba next weekend.
Melbourne Rising 21 - Tries: Jack Debreczeni, Scott Fuglistaller, Filipe Vilitati, Conversions: Jack Debreczeni (2)
Brisbane City 45 - Tries: Waita Setu, Junior Laloifi, Cadeyrn Neville, Sam Talakai, Scott Higginbotham, Samu Kerevi
Conversions: Jake McIntyre (5)