Dewar Shield: Melbourne continue unbeaten start to 2016

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By James Wong

Melbourne continued their unbeaten start to the Dewar Shield competition putting on a clinical performance to defeat Moorabbin 38-18 at Keys Road Reserve.

Playing with a stiff breeze behind them Melbourne got off to the perfect start scoring in the first minute. From the kick-off winger Mataiasi Nairava stepped his way through the Moorabbin defence and almost made it all the way. Melbourne got on the board a couple of phases later to take an early 7-0 lead.

“We knew Moorabbin were going to be a physical test for us and we were looking to come out and get that early dominance,” said Melbourne head coach Tumai Edwards.

Moorabbin hit back quickly with a penalty in a rare foray into the Melbourne 22 but were not able to muster enough attack despite a dominant set-piece in the first half.

Moorabbin coach Justin Carroll lamented his team’s slow start.

“We were obviously disappointed. We thought we would have got a little bit closer than we ended up. They just jumped out of the blocks really quickly on us with a couple of early tries.

“I thought we dominated their scrum, our set piece was very good.”

The Unicorns were able to use the wind to dominate territory and pushed the pace of play with their combination of rookie scrumhalf Herschel Gideon-Heka and Rebels squad member Mick Snowden at flyhalf. Two more tries put the visitors ahead 19-3.

Edwards was full of praise for his halves.

“Having Mick Snowden at ten, he’s a player that just wants to play a lot of minutes. When he gets the ball his first thing in mind is to attack.

“Mick’s bringing a lot of confidence out of our young halfback, Hershel. Throwing Hershel into the deep end against a team like Moorabbin was a good test and I think he definitely stood up.

Moorabbin scored with a second penalty not long before the half and were lucky not to immediately give the three points back after a ruck penalty, but Melbourne missed the kick leaving the score at half-time 19-6.

Nairava started the second half even better than the first, easily getting on the outside of the Moorabbin defence to score just after play resumed pushing Melbourne’s lead to 24-6.

Carroll was confident his team would hit back in the second half.

“At 19-6 at half-time, turning with the wind, I thought we’d be pretty okay in the second half and then, to their credit, we just couldn’t get our hands on the footy. We were battling from well inside our half all the time and that led to mistakes.

“The try after half-time was a dagger to the heart because we spoke about starting the second half positively with the wind.”

A yellow card to Melbourne lock Aaron Kelly gave Moorabbin the numbers advantage and the Rams were able to capitalise immediately with a try in the corner to fullback Tomu Mataika. The conversion was missed but the Rams were still in with a shot at 24-11.

Despite of playing into the wind, Melbourne managed to dominate territory and possession in the second half. A yellow card to Moorabbin scrumhalf Jade Murray put the Rams down to 14 men and finally the pressure led to more points for Melbourne. A try from a lineout drive took the score to 31-11.

Nairava was denied a second try after cleanly breaking through the Moorabbin line. With nothing but grass in front of him he casually jogged into the in-goal but Moorabbin lock Brandon Olow showed tremendous spirit to chased him down and force a knock-on.

As full-time approached Moorabbin give themselves the faintest of hopes of salvaging a bonus point when outside centre Heine McFarland scored an intercept try. The quick conversion made it 31-18 but Melbourne’s Snowden sealed things for good stepping multiple Rams in an impressive solo try right on full-time. Final score 38-18.

Edwards credited the win to his team’s strong defence and work at the ruck.

“Our defence was the key on the day. It shows the kind of character we have in the team in terms of having a bit of pride in our goal line,”

“We’re working on our ruck plays quite a lot at the moment because we feel that if we can dictate the ruck area we can determine how we want to play the game.

“I’ve given the boys a policy this year, if you back yourself, have a go, if you see it’s on just go.”

In spite of his team’s loss, Carroll remains confident that the Rams will be in the thick of things come playoff time.

“We’re definitely improving and we’re definitely going to continue to improve and challenge these top sides as the season goes on.

“Our breakdown was a massive improvement, our clean-out and out ball retention was actually pretty good but we’ve got to look at how we actually use that ball after two or three phases. We just have to work at being a little bit more patient in retaining the ball and working a little bit better into field positions.

“We’re only five games into a nineteen game season so we’ve a long way to go and I definitely believe we’ll improve enough to be there when semi-final time comes around.”