The Melbourne Rising have opened their 2015 Buildcorp National Rugby Championship (NRC) campaign with a thrilling 39-31 victory against Queensland Country at Bond University to retain the Horan-Little Shield.
Despite conceding two yellow cards and the loss of prop Tim Metcher to injury, the Rising scored six tries to Country’s five in an exhilarating match played at breakneck speed. Scrumhalf Ben Meehan impressed with a brace of tries, whilst back-rowers Jordy Reid, Colby Fainga’a and captain Scott Fuglistaller dominated in general play.
Radike Samo made his presence felt for the home side, busting through the Rising defence in the 3rd minute, however the match remained scoreless until a Tom English mistake saw flanker Connor Mitchell race 40m down the right-hand touchline to give Country an early advantage.
But the Rising were quick to respond and secured possession just outside the Country 22, before a barnstorming Lloyd Johansson set the platform for Ben Meehan to dart from the ruckbase and score untouched beside the posts. Rising flyhalf Jack Debreczeni converted from in front, taking the score to 8-5.
Despite this, Queensland Country continued to gather momentum and following following a sustained period of pressure, the Rising defence eventually cracked, with impressive prop Sef Fa’agase burrowing over from close range. Country flyhalf Sam Greene converted from the touchline, extending Country’s advantage.
Rising were next to score; Debreczeni combined with hotstepping debutant Leo Taliu, who jinked his way past Chris Feaui-Sautia to cross for his first NRC try. Debreczeni featured again moments later, dishing a perfect ball to Fuglistaller, who wrong-footed two Country defenders on his way to the tryline.
A deliberate knock-down in the 32nd minute from Meehan saw the Rising reduced to 14 men and allowed Country to build pressure inside the Rising 22, with fullback JJ Taulagi scoring on the on the stroke of halftime.
Queensland Country burst into the second half with a renewed vigour; defensive pressure from Mitchell resulted in a turnover, allowing Fa’agase to cross for the Country’s fourth try of the afternoon.
However, Rising struck back immediately, securing a lineout on the Country tryline before Meehan snuck over for his second try. Pat Leafa extended Rising’s lead six minutes later, barreling his way over from 5m after a Debreczeni break.
But the fast-finishing Country continued to press forwards and a scything run from winger Izaia Perese allowed reserve prop Reuben Leilua to narrow the gap.
The Rising conceded a 2nd yellow card for a Jonah Placid dangerous tackle, however a brilliant individual try to Dom Shipperly put the game out of Country’s reach, the final score reading 39-31.
The Rising return to Melbourne next Saturday to take on Brisbane City at the Harlequin Rugby Club. Kick-off at 2.00pm
Melbourne Rising 39 (B Meehan 2, L Taliu, S Fuglistaller, P Leafa, D Shipperley tries; J Debreczeni 3 cons) defeated Queensland Country 31 (C Mitchell, S Fa'agase 2, J Taulagi, R Leilua tries; S Greene 2 cons)*Melbourne Rising retain the Horan-Little Shield