The Canberra Vikings continued their charge to the National Rugby Championship finals series, with a dominant 36-12 win over the Melbourne Rising at Frankston Park.
The six tries to two bonus point win keeps Canberra level with the Fijian Drua atop the NRC standings.
The Vikings were on the board early, when centre Andrew Robinson picked up some loose ball and found his centre partner James Dargaville, who crossed untouched in the fourth minute.
Canberra’s defensive ruck work was outstanding in the opening quarter, pilfering whenever the Rising started building the attacking phases in their 22.
Tom Cusack carried his impressive form from last week’s big win over Fiji through to this game, and was causing all sorts of issues for Melbourne early both defensively and with the ball. He broke away from a turnover and found scrumhalf Ryan Lonergan, but the young no.9 couldn’t get the ball down.
From the resulting scrum, however, Lonergan and flyhalf Wharenui Hawera went down the short side, sending fullback Tom Banks over in the corner. Hawera couldn’t convert, but the Vikings were out to 12-0 after 25 minutes.
A nice lineout drive from the Vikings saw hooker Folau Fainga’a score in the 33rd minute, and just when it looked like Canberra would keep a clean sheet for the half, they let the Rising in for a converted try through flyhalf Jack McGregor, meaning they had to be content with a 19-7 lead at the break.
Canberra’s dominance resumed where it left off after halftime, with hard-working backrower Rob Valetini crossing, and Hawera’s beautiful fading conversion from the sideline made it 26-7.
Melbourne’s afternoon got worse when Wallabies backrower Lopeti Timani was yellow carded for a pretty obvious cynical infringement in the 51st minute, and the Vikings looked sure to score after a Cusack line break only minutes later, only for Dargaville to lose it over the line under pressure from Rising winger Kitione Ratu.
The Vikings took full toll of the man advantage, winning a Rising five-metre scrum against the feed and then pushing over for the try, Valetini’s second in what had been another strong game from the Melbourne product against his old side.
Melbourne scored next through replacement winger Angelo Leaupepe in the 64th minute, but there was no chance of a comeback, with the Vikings continuing to dominate through their set piece.
Replacement scrumhalf Pedro Rolando scored in the corner off the back of another huge Vikings scrum, with the final 36-12 scoreline a pretty fair reflection of Canberra’s performance.
Melbourne Rising 12
Tries: McGregor, Leaupepe
Cons: McGregor ,
Cards: Timani (51')
Canberra Vikings 36
Tries: Valetini, Dargaville, Banks, Fainga’a, Rolando
Cons: Hawera 3