Melbourne Rising too strong for QLD Country
By Henry Jacobs
Melbourne Rising has opened its 2015 National Rugby Championship campaign with a 39-31 win over Queensland Country at Bond University Rugby Field on Sunday.
In a high scoring affair the mix of experience and youth from last year’s minor premiers saw it through 20 minutes with only 14 players on the field, to retain the inaugural Horan-Little Shield.
With eleven Melbourne Rebels contracted players in the starting team, the Rising was too strong for a Country lineup boasting six Reds and former Wallaby Radike Samo, in a closely fought encounter.
“We’re really happy with the boys effort yesterday and it puts a line in the sand for where we’re sitting early in the comp, but disappointed to have dropped a game at the start of the season,” QLD Country coach Jason Gilmore said.
“Sam [Greene] played well, he had a pretty good club season and has continued his form into the first round . . . he was really helped out by our forward pack, they were pretty strong upfront at scrum and lineout and gave us some good ball to attack from.
“We had a couple of opportunities with the set piece in the last 10 minutes when we were only down by three points that we were unfortunately not good enough to take.”
Gilmore’s side opened the scoring in the 10th minute as flanker Conor Mitchell found himself in space to score out wide.
Rebels halfback Ben Mehaan reciprocated for the Rising after sliding through a gap to score under the posts, Jack Debreczeni converted to take an 8-5 lead after 16 minutes.
Country regained the lead shortly after as prop Sef Fa’agase burrowed through the Melbourne defence after a sustained period of pick and drive pressure, Sam Greene added the conversion.
With flyhalf Debreczeni showcasing his Super Rugby experience and spreading the ball wide, the Rising stretched the QLD line as former Rebels centre Lloyd Johansson drew the defence on the left flank and put fellow Harlequin Leo Taliu over.
Two minutes later Rebels flanker Scott Fuglistaller crashed over next to the posts, Debreczeni converted to give the Rising a 24-13 lead with 15 minutes remaining in the half.
Country retaliated on the cusp of halftime as JJ Tualagi slipped through the defence for his side to trail 24-18 at the break.
It side started the second half where it left off as Greene danced around the defence and gave a flat short pass to Fa’agase, who dashed 40m to the right hand corner for his second, Greene converted from the sideline give Country a 26-24 lead.
After returning from a prior yellow card Meehan dived over in the left hand corner, from the back of the ruck, to regain the lead for the Rising.
Debreczeni showed his class in the 52nd minute as he fooled the defence to slide through and give a wide ball to hooker Pat Leafa who scored in the right hand corner to give Melbourne a 34-26 lead.
Country continued to hang on as a quick tap from Tualagi caught the Rising defence off guard as he popped the ball to Reuben Leilua, who crashed over the line.
Australian U20s fullback Jonah Placid was yellow carded in the 64th minute and the Rising went down to 14 men for the second time in the match, Country continued to push on the line but couldn’t gain any reward on the scoreboard.
Melbourne sealed the game in the 70th minute as Luke Jones drove through the defensive line before Rebels winger Dom Shipperley found space on the right from the subsequent phase, brushing off Saia Fainga’a to score in the corner.
Country had a chance to snatch a draw on the final play as a Debreczeni penalty drifted wide but couldn’t go the length of the field and the Rising sealed an early place in the top four.
Jason Gilmore’s side will be disappointed to have let a home slip against the 2014 pacesetters and will be looking to quickly address any imperfections in a three day turnaround before it travels to Leichhardt oval to face the table topping Sydney Stars on Thursday evening.
“The main priority is to get the boys get the boys fresh and ready to go . . . it’s just one game so we just have to make sure they are feeling good about themselves, looking at the game yesterday our breakdown needs to improve – so that will be our main focus,” Gilmore said.
The Rising hosts its first game of the season, welcoming second placed reigning champions Brisbane City to Harlequin Rugby Club on Saturday Afternoon.
Queensland Country: 31
Tries: Mitchell, Fa’agase (2), Tualagi, Leilua
Conversions: Greene (2)
Melbourne Rising: 39
Tries: Meehan (2), Taliu, Fuglistaller, Leafa, Shipperley
Conversions: Debreczeni (3)