NRC: Rising thump winless Rays

by Max Hope

An eight-try second half bonanza from the Melbourne Rising has given them a 55-21 victory over the Sydney Rays in blustery conditions at St Patrick’s School, Ballarat.

A strong cross-field breeze greeted the two sides and it was clear from the outset that both teams were keen to play the game down in their opposition’s half.

The breeze made it difficult for both hookers during lineouts throughout the course of the match, with Simmons and Macauley causing havoc for the Rising.

The Rays opened the scoring in the 20th minute of the match as fly-half Will Harrison danced around some slower Rising forwards and scored underneath the sticks.

It didn’t take long for the Rising to get themselves onto the board, skipper Angus Cottrell crossing in the 30th minute for what would be the first of his two tries of the afternoon.

The Rays continued to back themselves as they hunted for their first win of the season and took the lead into the break following John Folau’s 39th minute try.

There would be no fairytale end to the year for the Rays however, the clock striking midnight with the start of the second 40.

The Rising commenced their display of running rugby instantly, crossing the line immediately courtesy once again of Cottrell. The second rower’s five pointer came off the back of a barnstorming carry from Sefa Naivalu who sliced the Rays open with an impressive kick return.

A yellow card to Rays replacement front-rower Kiernan Rabie would indicate the beginning of the end for the visitors, as the Rising capitalised on their one-man advantage through Tom English, who swooped in with a clean set of mitts on a pass from Michael Ruru that hit the dirt to go over next to the uprights.

The pressure was continuously growing for the visitors and some individual brilliance from Rising fly-half Archie King did nothing to help the Rays’ cause, as the playmaker charged his opposite number’s clearing kick down and regathered to score.

A second half double to both Leaupepe and Tuipulotu and further tries from King and Hardwick blew the score line out and did not reflect how evenly fought the contest had been played out in the first half.

The Rising’s intent to throw the ball around, combined with some tired defending from the Rays, gave the home fans something to cheer about.

Wallabies Nick Phipps and Will Dempsey were both strong performers for the away side, whilst Ruru’s control of the tempo and pace of the game was particularly impressive for the Rising, as well as the strong running from the outside backs.

The afternoon caps off a frustrating season for the Rising, who will no doubt feel frustrated they could not produce performances like the second half of this contest every week. 
The loss of the Greater

Sydney Rams was meant to bolster the strength of the Sydney Rays for season 2018, however the Sydney siders will finish the year winless and the wooden spoon in hand.

Sydney Rays 21

Tries: Harrison, Folau, Latunipulu

Conversions: Harrison (3)

Yellow Cards: Rabie

Melbourne Rising 55

Tries: Cottrell (2), Leaupepe (2), Tuipulotu (2), English, King, Hardwick

Conversions: King (5)