The Perth Spirit have put on a brilliant display of running rugby to kick off their NRC title defence, beating a resilient Rising side 45-33.
A huge Perth crowd filled the McGillivray Oval hill and they were treated to some breathtaking tries from two teams destined to meet again come finals time, if today's contest is anything to go by.
The Spirit, led by Pek Cowan, Anaru Rangi, Richie Arnold, Isi Naisarani, Michael Ruru, Billy Meakes and Chance Peni, were simply outstanding.
The interplay between the tight five kept the attack rolling and Ruru commanded their sets from the base of the breakdown, making life for Jono Lance and Meakes particularly easy.Meakes was the Spirit's best this afternoon.
He was whacking Rising runners all afternoon and threatened to break the line with every carry, granted space by some powerful forward pack carries.
Naisarani was the chief destroyer of that pack, reeling off repeated carries which showcased his top notch leg drive, punching over the gain line with every touch.
It was the sharp offloading that put the Spirit on the front foot early and inside five minutes, Naisarani and Tetera Faulkner had scored.It took 15 minutes but the Rising got back on level terms with a vicious one-two, Nic Stirzaker putting Sione Tuipulotu in before Jack Maddocks broke the line and found a flying Marika Koroibete to score the Rising's second in as many minutes.Pek Cowan gave the Spirit some breathing space but they would have had more if James Verity-Amm didn't butcher a try one minute later.
All was forgiven in the 28th minute, though, with Meakes making a line break before Curtis Rona threw a brilliant flick pass out the back to put Chance Peni in.
Peni was sin binned for repeated offside infringements two minutes later and Jack McGregor put the Rising within touching distance going into the break, stretching out to score, converting his own try before trotting into the sheds trailing 31-21.
Verity-Amm made up for his brain fade in the first term with an athletic effort to score the first try of the second term but the Rising wouldn't go away, Stirzaker taking advantage of a penalty to take a quick tap and send Koroibete over for a long range effort at the 52 minute mark.
The Rising blew the ensuing restart and three phases later Faulkner fell over for his second, Melbourne unable to peg back the margin with their finishers on the field.
Tries: Naisarani, Faulkner 2, Cowan, Peni, Brache, Verity-Amm
Cons: Lance 5
Yellow cards: Peni (29')
Tries: Tuipulotu, Koroibete 2, McGregor, Maddocks
Cons: McGregor 4