NRC: Rising and City's finals hopes on the line

by Marty Cambridge

Brisbane City will be trying to get their quest for a three-peat back on track when they travel to take on Melbourne Rising on Saturday afternoon at Harlequins Oval.

The defending champions have struggled so far in 2016, a massive change in personnel both on and off the field proving a challenge so far this season.

It won’t get any easier for the side, not only do they have to travel to Melbourne they will be without Reds player Leroy Houston for the rest of the year after he returned to England on a short-term contract.

His departure provides an opportunity for Taniela Tupou's older brother Criff to start in the backrow, the significance of this weekend’s fixture certainly not lost on their head coach Rod Seib. 

“This is an important match in the context of our season. We’ve lost two games now, so every contest is vitally important to get our season back on track,” Seib said.

“There were some positives in the first half of last week’s tough loss to the Vikings, but we need to build on that and sustain it for 80 minutes. Melbourne are a good side and we can’t afford any lapses in defence if we’re going to beat them at their home ground.”

Leroy Houston won't take to the field for Brisbane City again in this year's Buildcorp NRC. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmselyThe Rising themselves will be looking for just their second win of the year, adding to the weight that this fixture could well decide the finals hopes of these two sides.

In a boost for the home-side, captain Nic Stirzaker has been passed fit alongside winger Ah-Mu Tuimalealiifano while lock Alex Toolis has overcome a concussion sustained in the second half of last week’s loss to the NSW Country Eagles to take his spot in the first XV.

With both teams coming off losses in round three, Rising head coach Zane Hilton knows his side has to come out of the gates firing.

“The competition doesn’t get any easier as we welcome the defending champions Brisbane City to Harlequins Oval for such a crucial fixture but welcome the challenge at home,” Hilton said.

“It’s great to welcome back some experienced personnel for the game but we can’t afford another slow start and put ourselves under pressure in the second-half against a quality team such as Brisbane.”

Their previous two encounters have seen both sides pick up a win each, this match sure to be a cracker with their 2016 seasons potentially on the line.

Sam Jeffries has been in top form for the Rising so far in 2016. Photo: ARU Media/Stu Walmsley

Melbourne Rising

Starting 1-15: Cruze Ah Nau, Pat Leafa, Tim Metcher, Sam Jeffries, Alex Toolis, Jordy Reid, Ikapote Tupai, Harley Fox, Nic Stirzaker, Ben Meehan, Ah-Mu Tuimalealiifano, Lloyd Johansson, Tom English, Jonah Placid, Jack Debreczeni.

Reserves: Siliva Siliva, Tom Moloney, Tyrel Lomax, Steve Cummins, Rob Leota, Mick Snowden, Sione Tuipulotu, Isaiah Leota.

Brisbane City

Starting 1-15: Pettowa Paraka, Andrew Ready, Sam Talakai (c), Luke Beauchamp, Lukhan Tui, Criff Tupou, Michael Gunn, Isi Naisarani, Nick Frisby, Jake McIntyre, Alex Gibbon, Patrick James, Toby White, Chris Kuridrani, Brad Lacey.

Reserves: Matt Mafi, Markus Vanzati, Feao Fotuaika, Jeremiah Lynch, Tuaina Tualima, Moses Sorovi, Mitch Felsman, Brendan Mitchell.

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