Melbourne Rising out to upstage Canberra’s Vikings

NRC Rd 8 - Melbourne Rising v NSW Country Eagles

Melbourne Rising were the standout side in the inaugural National Rugby Championship, finishing the regular season undefeated and as minor premiers.

But just a week later, it was all over.

The Rising were ambushed by an impressive Perth Spirit side in the semi final, ending their season prematurely.

A year on, Melbourne again find themselves 80 minutes away from the NRC decider, but have taken a very different road to get there.

“The side this year is a very different side to last year, there is only a handful of blokes that were part of the squad last year so from our perspective we’re only looking at this year and all that you can do is give yourself an opportunity and that’s what we’ve done, “ Rising coach Zane Hilton told Rugby News.

“We’re excited to be here. We know they are a very good team but from our perspective we are just focussing on ourselves, we are just concentrating on what we need to do to be successful.”

Although the Rising secured a last minute finals berth just as Perth did last year, Hilton said you couldn’t draw comparisons between the two sides campaigns, despite both sides hitting form at the back end of their respective seasons.

“The way Perth played it last year, they selected almost a home and away side. We’ve picked our best side every week and have fallen short in a couple of games.”

“Over the last few weeks, we’ve been playing better footy so we are hitting the finals knowing that we are in form.”

Injuries have led to a disjointed NRC season in Melbourne, however Hilton thinks that may help his side in the long run.

“We’ve had a lot of injuries all year, I think we’ve used 37 players so far this season with four guys getting starts from outside of the initial squad and some of them will play tonight,” Hilton said.

“The positive of that is that all of our players have had a taste of NRC footy and know what it’s expect.”

The Vikings scored 21 unanswered second half points to beat the Rising 42-16 when the pair met in round nine, with Hilton admitting his side would need an improved performance if they are to challenge the Canberra outfit.

“They are a great team. For us, it’s about trying to get parity in the areas that they think that they will dominate us. The set piece is one of those and I think part of the battle will be won or lost there as we saw last time we came up here.”

After their disappointing end to 2014, Hilton said an NRC premiership would have a huge impact on rugby at all levels in Victoria.

“It’d be a huge thing. We obviously aren’t looking past this week, but it’d be a great thing for Victorian Rugby Union and for the Rebels new owners who have shown great support to the Rising programs.”

“The reality is, we’ve got to go out there tonight and put on a good performance against a very good team and hopefully come away with the result.”

UC Vikings v Melbourne Rising

UC Vikings (1-23) 

Allan Alaalatoa, Robbie Abel, Ben Alexander, Rory Arnold, Blake Enever, Dean Oakman-Hunt, Jarrad Butler, Ita Vaea, Joe Powell, Christian Lealiifano, Lausii Taliauli, Rodney Iona, Nigel Ah Wong, James Dargaville, Isaac Thompson. Reserves: Albert Anae, Sione Taula, Tyrel Lomax, Michael Oakman-Hunt, Rowan Perry, Brent Hamlin, Mitch Third, Francis Fainifo.

Melbourne Rising (1-23) 

Cruze Ah-Nau, Pat Leafa, Duncan Chubb, Sam Jeffries, Lopeti Timani, Steve Cummins, Jordy Reid, Colby Fainga’a, Ben Meehan, Jack Debreczeni, Filipe Vilitati, Lloyd Johansson, Sione Tuipulotu, Stacey Ili, Jonah Placid. Reserves: Mitch Andrews, Mike Tyler, Tom Moloney, Murray Douglas, Pom Simona, Maradona Farao, Taiso Silafai-Leaana, Justin Marsters.