NRC Wk 1: Perth Spirit Down Canberra Vikings In Season Opener
University of Canberra Vikings Media Release –
The Perth Spirit has squeezed home to win in Canberra on Saturday against a UC Brumbies laden team at Viking Park, 28-23.
Despite being down with just two minutes left on the clock, the Spirit rallied to knock the UC Vikings over who face a short turn around until their next game against the Rams on Thursday night.
Man of the Match Tim Cree was outstanding for the UC Vikings, making yards up the middle with his carry and working hard at the set piece and in defence.
Out wide, Robbie Coleman showed his class at this level, looming large whenever play was broken and contributing two tries of his own along the way.
But neither player could stem the Spirit, who out enthused the UC Vikings for the majority of the contest.
Captain Fotu Auelua said the UC Vikings would need to regroup quickly if they were going to have a chance at downing the Rams next Thursday night.
“There were a lot of things that weren’t good enough in that performance. It’s going to have to be a sharp, intense week at training so we can get things right,” Auelua said.
“We wanted to start fast in this comp but unfortunately we already find ourselves on the back foot. But we can’t dwell on it, we need to move forward.”
Back on his old stomping ground, the first try and conversion went to Zack Holmes after the Spirit managed to mount 8 minutes of continuous pressure from the kick-off. Probing around the ruck, Holmes stepped off his left to go under the posts and give the Spirit an early lead.
With 10 UC Brumbies amongst the ranks, the home team held the advantage of experience on their side. But it was the Spirit who enjoyed the majority of momentum during the first 35 minutes, preventing the UC Vikings from mounting any real progress or points.
The Spirit moved forward again 10 minutes from the break through fullback Dillyn Leads, Perth pouncing on scrappy ball to thread it through the hands and move ahead 13-0.
Winger Robbie Coleman looked like he’d pegged the Spirit back with a darting run up the middle, but the next phase summed up the first half for the UC Vikings with a knock on sending the teams to the sheds at 13-0, Perth up.
The UC Vikings started the second half with more purpose, creating chances for Coleman and his opposite winger, Jerome Niumata, but both opportunities went begging as the ball slipped into touch.
Finally the pressure broke, the UC Vikings crossing out wide through flyhalf Isaac Thompson to claw back five points. His try was then backed up by another five-pointer thanks to Coleman in the left corner.
Both the first and second conversion attempts missed but the UC Vikings were back in the contest, down a converted try 13-10 with 25 to play.
Having defended valiantly, mistakes crept into the Spirit game and they had two players yellow carded in as many minutes. With Richard Harwick and Alec Hepburn in the bin, the UC Vikings turned the screws scoring tries through Nigel Ah Wong and then a brilliant solo effort to Coleman, which was converted to push the lead out to 23-13.
But despite the deficit, the Spirit would not go away. Tom Staniforth was yellow carded for a blatant offside handing the Spirit a last-ditched chance which they took with both hands. First it was hooker Heath Tessman from close range before outside centre Ammon Matuato streaked away to score the match winner.
After the bell Luke Burton kicked a penalty leaving Perth to head back west 28-23 winners.
Perth Spirit 28 (Ammon Matuauto, Zack Holmes, Dillyn Leyds, Heath Tessmann tries; Zack Holmes con, Luke Burton con, pen) defeated UC Vikings 23 (Robbie Coleman 2, Nigel Ah Wong, Isaac Thompson tries, Christian Lealiifano con) at Vikings Park, Canberra