The Western Sydney Rams have caused a huge boilover and claimed the Horan-Little Shield in the process, beating Melbourne Rising 68-30 in Melbourne.
The nine tries to four bonus point win adds another fascinating element to next week’s final round of the Buildcorp National Rugby Championship, and ensured a fourth holder for the Shield in just five weeks of the 2016 season.
“Yeah, I’m not that surprised actually, I was pretty confident heading into this game with our preparations through the week, and the boys really, really wanted it; it was good to see,” Rams Captain Paul Asquith said after the win.
“It’s the first time we’ve had (the Horan-Little Shield) at the Rams, so we’ll protect it the best we can, so we’ll take it back with us, enjoy the win, and defend it next week.”
An Albert Nikoro try inside the last twenty minutes cancelled out a Sione Tuipulotu double for the Rising, and put the Rams out to a 52-30 lead, and when the Rising found themselves down to 13 men, a third change of hands for the Shield for 2016 was very much on the cards.
Western Sydney No.8 Tyrone Viiga’s third try for the afternoon sealed the win in the 67th minute, and replacement flanker Jordan Tuapou’s 79th minute intercept try was the icing on the cake.
The Rams will defend the Horan-Little Shield in Sydney next weekend against NSW Country, with the winner to be crowned the 2016 holders.
Earlier, it was the Rams who scored first, despite running into a howling wind in the first half. Their maul was already proving dangerous, and so it proved when Viiga crashed over in the 8th minute.
The Rising hit back soon through scrumhalf Mick Snowden diving over from the base of the ruck, which with Jack Debreczeni’s conversion made the scores level.
Or they were level briefly; the Rams won the restart and launched another attacking raid, with flanker Tupou Sopoaga diving over in the corner. Paul Asquith’s forced drop goal conversion almost went backwards into the wind, but the Rams were ahead again.
And that didn’t last either. Pat Leafa crashed over from short range in the 22nd minute, Debreczeni converted, and it was becoming clear we had a shootout on our hands.
But the Rams kept playing, and playing very well into the teeth of the wind, and tries to Asquith, flyhalf Mitch Walton, and a second for Viiga put the visitors out to a 38-16 lead at halftime. They were setting themselves up wonderfully for the second half, in which they’d have the wind at their backs.
MELBOURNE RISING 30
Tries: S. Tuipulotu 2, M. Snowden, P. Leafa
Cons: J. Debreczeni 3/4
WESTERN SYDNEY RAMS 68
Tries: T. Viiga 3, T. Sopoaga, P. Asquith, M. Walton, D. Lolohea, A. Nikoro, J, Tuapou
Cons: P. Asquith 7/9