NRC Wk 5: Rising Run Away From NSW Country in the Bush
Melbourne Rising kept their unbeaten streak intact with a 37-16 win over NSW Country Eagles in front of a healthy and passionate crowd at Wade Park in Orange on Saturday.
The picturesque backdrop, coupled with a wine and food festival at the back of the stands, made for a great afternoon of rugby in the bush even if the well-supported home-side couldn’t come away with the result.
It was one of the tougher matches for the Rising who held an eight point lead approaching halftime but showed enough patience and maturity to work through a tough patch and power on in the second 40 for a fifth straight bonus point victory.
Once again, the Stirzaker-Debreczeni partnership skilfully steered the Rising around the park, with Stirzaker’s defensive commitment to stand in the road of some much bigger blokes always a highlight.
While the impressive exploits of Stirzaker, Telusa Veainu and former Galloping Green Rennie Lautolo-Molimau will make the highlights reels, it was a win built on a no-nonsense performance up front. Lopeti Timani was his damaging, ball-running best while Sam Jeffries, Luke Jones and Sean McMahon put in a mountain of work to lay the platform for the 21-point win.
The Eagles maintain second spot on the table despite consecutive losses and will freshen up with a bye next weekend. Tala Gray was arguably Country’s best, never taking a backward step in attack or defence and flyhalf Sam Windsor continues to show his class in the number ten jersey.
The Rising had the best scoring opportunity of the opening quarter but dropped the pill over the line before setting up camp of the Eagles’ five metre-line.
The Melbourne pack dominated the set-piece, winning five – yep five – consecutive scrum penalties and seeing Country loosehead Duncan Chubb sent to the bin. It took them a couple of attempts, but halfback and captain Nic Stirzaker finally sniped around the side of a ruck after 22 minutes for an 8-0 lead.
A second followed before the Eagles had even regrouped when Tom English took a nice pass on the right touchline and ran away 40 metres to score under the posts and take a 16-0 lead.
Eagles flyhalf Sam Windsor led the fightback, holding the ball up and busting through the Rising’s defence ten metres out from the line and scoring under posts.
The Eagles piled on the pressure as halftime approached but a penalty, Jack Debreczeni’s massive boot and some weak midfield defence allowed flanker Sean McMahon an easy linebreak and a 30 metre run to the sticks for a 24-8 advantage.
Rising prop Paul Alo-Emile copped a ten minute spell in the bin just before halftime but the Eagles couldn’t capitalise before the break.
Telusa Veainu put the finishing touches on the Rising’s first score after the resumption to take a 29-8 lead and make it a truly uphill battle for the homeside.
Lopeti Timani carried a couple of would-be tacklers over the tryline from a well-worked attacking lineout for a 37-8 scoreline and while lock Cadeyrn Neville was sent to the bin in the final 15-minutes, mistakes kept Country from capitalising on their numerical advantage until replacement Andrew Kellaway scored under the posts with a couple of minutes to play.
The high flying Rising play the UC Vikings at home next weekend before a bye while the Eagles have a week off before playing the Stars at Leichhardt Oval in Round 7.
Melbourne Rising 37 (Nic Stirzaker, Tom English, Sean McMahon, Telusa Veainu, Lopeti Timani; Jack Debreczeni 4 cons) bt NSW Country Eagles 16 (Sam Windsor, Andrew Kellaway; Sam Windsor 2 cons)