A dominant second half from Perth Spirit has locked in three of the top four places for next weekend’s Buildcorp NRC semi-finals, with their 42-36 win over the University of Canberra Vikings.
Goal-kicking was the difference on the scoresheet with both teams scoring five tries, but in reality, Spirit were always in control in the second half at Viking Park in Canberra.
“We just knew that some of that hard work we did in the first half would really pay off,” Perth hooker Heath Tessmann said immediately after the win.
“We made them work pretty hard at the set piece and around the contact area, and we knew that our bench would be able to finish over the top.”
Perth Spirit rammed home their scrum advantage in the second half, and they were able to take advantage most times they entered opposition territory.
Second half tries to scrumhalf Ryan Louwrens, a second try to no.8 Brynard Stander, and centre Billy Meakes pushed the finals-bound Perth side out to a 40-28 lead inside the last ten minutes, after Vikings’ hooker Josh Mann-Rea crossed for a second try after the break.
Vikings flyhalf Isaac Thompson scored a late try to bring the margin back to four, but a late penalty saw Spirit outside back AJ Alatimu kick the first penalty goal of the competition to confirm the 42-36 win.
Perth will now play the Sydney Rays in the second semi-final at Pittwater Rugby Park in Sydney next Sunday, while the Vikings need the Rays to beat Melbourne Rising tomorrow in Melbourne by more than 27 points, in order to take that last finals berth.
Canberra had been ruing slow starts in 2016, and were desperate to be the first team on the scoreboard which they did through left winger Lausi’i Taliauli in the 9th minute.
The Vikings’ lineout drive was making them nice ground already, and they took advantage of the early territory dominance when Robbie Coleman found some space down the right edge to put winger Eli Sinoti over. Two conversions from either sideline from Isaac Thompson had the Vikings up 16-0 after the first quarter of the game.
Perth were the next to score, though, through Stander under the posts, after the Vikings’ forwards were a bit slow to break from the 5m scrum. Jonno Lance’s conversion pulled the margin back to eight.
The Vikings hit back though, with Mann-Rea scoring in the corner from a lineout trick shot, but it was Perth who would score the last points of the half, when winger Eric Vasukicakau scoring in the corner.
Ian Prior took over the kicking with Lance forced from the field, and his conversion confirmed the Vikings’ 22-16 lead at halftime.
UNI of CANBERRA VIKINGS 36
Tries: J. Mann-Rea 2, L. Taliauli, E. Sinoti, I. Thompson
Cons: I. Thompson 3/4, A. Horan 0/1
PERTH SPIRIT 42
Tries: B. Stander 2, E. Vasukicakau, R. Louwrens, B. Meakes
Cons: J. Lance 1/1, I. Prior 3/3, AJ. Alatimu 1/1
Pens: AJ. Alatimu 1/1