Perth Spirit have put themselves right in the Buildcorp NRC semi-finals, with their 60-22 thumping of Brisbane City vaulting them from fifth to third on the competition table.
The nine-tries-to-three bonus point win saw Perth leapfrog Melbourne Rising and the University of Canberra Vikings, and they can secure a finals berth next weekend against the Vikings in Canberra.
Though they started somewhat slowly, the home side were in complete control in the second half, running in six tries after the break, with doubles to backrowers Ben McCalman and Richard Hardwick.
McCalman was superb once again, and may well find himself on a plane to London, joining the Wallabies as injury cover for Sean McMahon.
Brisbane City actually scored the first points of the match when flyhalf Jake McIntyre doubled back behind a ruck and slid through a gap to score next to the posts in the 11th minute and convert himself.
Perth responded through their set piece, however, and a well-executed lineout drive from nearly twenty metres away couldn’t be stopped, hooker Heath Tessmann the beneficiary from the back. Ian Prior’s conversion from out wide levelled the score at 8-8 after 16 minutes.
Both teams played it back and forward nearing the 30-minute mark before Mitch Felsman finished off a City nice passage started by McIntyre, but that was quickly cancelled out when Marcel Brache scored out wide for the Spirit.
Flanker Richard Hardwick crashed over from another lineout drive right on halftime, and Perth led 20-16 at the break.
Brisbane City found themselves in yellow card trouble after the break, with replacement hooker Moli Sooaemalelagi and lock Lukhan Tui sent to the sin bin within three minutes of each other.
Perth didn’t waste their numerical advantage and jumped out to a 32-16 lead, with Ben McCalman crossing from a lineout drive, and Western Force winger Semisi Masirewa crossing in the corner on his NRC debut.
McCalman controlled the scrum nicely to push over and score his second on the hour, but Ian Prior was not having a happy time from the kicking tee, sending a fifth conversion attempt wide for the day.
The cracks were really opening up in the City defence by the 64th minute, with Hardwick strolling through way more easily than he should have. Manihera Eden took over the kicking and added the extras, to extend Perth’s lead to 46-16.
City were the next to score, with centre Brad Lacey scoring against his old side, but they fluffed the restart and immediately found themselves back under the pump.
Eden crossed in the corner himself in the closing minutes, beautifully finishing off a nice fend and line break from Western Force signing Billy Meakes, and lock Ross Haylett-Petty put the cherry on top of the bonus point win, crossing for the Spirit’s ninth try right on fulltime.
PERTH SPIRIT 60
Tries: B. McCalman 2, R. Hardwick 2, H. Tessmann, M. Brache, S. Masirewa, M. Eden, R. Haylett-Petty
Cons: I. Prior 1/6, M. Eden 1/1, A.J. Alatimu 1/2
BRISBANE CITY 22
Tries: J. McIntyre, M. Felsman, B. Lacey
Cons: J. McIntyre 2/3