A remarkable second half comeback, in which they scored 30 unanswered points, has pushed the Melbourne Rising out to a big 46-32 win over Queensland Country at Harlequin Oval.
After finding themselves down 32-16 at the halftime break, Rising Coach Zane Hilton will be bottling whatever he gave his team in the break, with his side turning out a completely different second half performance to take the competition points.
The first twenty minutes of the match were played at a breakneck speed, with an early Tom English try for the Rising followed by three converted tries for Queensland Country, once they finally did get their hands on the ball.
Wallabies lock Rob Simmons and his second row partner Isack Rodder both crossed for tries for Country, as did very promising young outside centre Isaia Perese.
Flyhalf Mack Mason was kicking beautifully off the tee, and in the middle of it all, Rising flanker Jordy Reid found himself in yellow card trouble for a deliberate knock-down.
Rising hooker Pat Leafa helped trim the lead back on the half hour, crashing over at the back of a well-worked lineout drive, and which Ben Meehan converted to bring Country’s lead back to 24-16.
Just as it was looking like that would be the halftime score, Country flanker Connor Mitchell swooped on a loose Nic Stirzaker pass, and ran 35 metres to score under the posts.
Mason’s conversion made it 32-16 at the break.
Meehan got things underway after the break, crossing for a try after a very lucky bounce following through on a Jack Debreczeni downfield kick; the conversion brought Country’s lead back to 32-24, but confusion reigned for a moment, when Meehan initially tried to take a drop goal conversion, thinking referee Rohan Hoffman might send the try up for TMO referral.
But with no TMO in use, Hoffmann and his assistants made the decision, and Meehan was told to take the conversion again.
The Rising’s remarkable second half comeback was gaining ground, and when Lopeti Timani and winger Ah-mu Tuimalealiifano crossed for tries, the home side found themselves leading 38-32 with twenty minutes left on the clock.
The game was held up at this point for a short period, with the ambulance required for Country and Queensland Reds winger Eto Nabuli, who was badly injured in attempting the tackle on Tuimalealiifano.
When play did resume, Country tried desperately to get themselves back in the game, but the Rising’s experience – and their defence – was able to see them through.
Sione Tuipulotu scored after a tackle bust in front of the posts, to confirm the extraordinary come-from-behind win.
MELBOURNE RISING 46
Tries: T. English, P. Leafa, B. Meehan, L. Timani, A. Tuimalealiifano, S. Tuipulotu
Cons: B. Meehan 5/6
QUEENSLAND COUNTRY 32
Tries: R. Simmons, I. Rodder, I. Perese, C. Mitchell
Cons: M. Mason 4/4