The Perth Spirit have held on in a stop-start, back-and-forth opening match of the 2016 Buildcorp National Rugby Championship, beating Melbourne Rising 20-16 at the University of Western Australia.
Taking us all back to junior rugby days, the match kicked off at 11am local time, a timeslot that could prove to be a very handy advantage for the home side as the competition progresses.
Luke Morahan crossed for a double to secure the win for the Spirit, and though the Rising enjoyed scrum domination throughout, their execution let them down numerous times in try-scoring opportunities.
Both sides threw everything into attack in the first half, with Lance and Debreczeni both looking to unleash their respective backlines, though both sides were guilty of handling errors throughout a scrappy first half.
Rising lock Sam Jeffries did eventually crash over from close range, and with Debreczeni converting, Melbourne headed into the sheds leading 8-6 at halftime.
Rising openside flanker Jordy Reid was superb in this game, and barged over from a lineout drive after Nic Stirzaker had made a short-side bust from a scrum to get the Rising in position. Flyhalf Jack Debreczeni added the extras, to push the visitors out to a 16-12 lead with around 25 minutes to play in what was a see-sawing second half.
But Morahan crossed for his second with around 10 minutes to play, after he trailed his good mate and former schoolboys teammate Lance close to the line.
Lance’s conversion pushed the Spirit back in front and from there they were able to hold on for the win.
Earlier, Perth Spirit no.8 and converted winger Onehunga Havili scored the first try of the 2016 season from a short burst in the fifth minute. Melbourne winger Ah-Mu Tuimalealiifano looked certain to respond only minutes later, only to bomb what looked a certain try.
PERTH SPIRIT 20
Tries: L.Morahan 2, O.Havili; Cons: J.Lance 1/3.
MELBOURNE RISING 16
Tries: S.Jeffries, J.Reid; Cons: J.Debreczeni 2/2.