Match Review: Rising fall short in thriller

The Melbourne Rising have gone down to reigning NRC champions Queensland Country by a solitary point, in an enthralling contest at Mike Carney Toyota Park in Townsville.

In searing 32-degree heat, the Rising put on a master class from set pieces, but were unable to get their noses in front of a determined Queensland Country defence, with the final score 28-29 the home side’s way.

Scrum half Michael Ruru was influential for the Rising collecting two tries, while fly half Archie King also impressed, scoring a try and kicking three conversions.

The Queensland side had five individual try scorers, and while their set pieces were overwhelmed by the Rising pack, their dogged defence proved to be the ultimate difference.

The home side got off to a fast start when in the 5th minute, scrum-half James Tuttle tapped to himself quickly from a penalty and dove under the Rising defence for a try, giving Queensland a five-point lead.

The Rising responded quickly, piling on impressive set pieces and forward pressure.

However, two mistimed line outs in good positions meant the Melbourne side were unable to take their opportunities.

After 10 minutes of repeated forward phases though, the Rising broke through thanks to scrumhalf Michael Ruru, who in the 25th minute, dummied one way from the ruck and burrowed under two defenders for the club’s first try.

Flyhalf Archie King converted comfortably to give the Rising a 7-5 lead.

Five minutes later in the 30th minute, Ruru scored his second try after a magnificent solo effort.

Showing his pace, Ruru evaded four defenders to slice his way through the Country defence for a brilliant try and his second of the match. King converted truly to extend the Rising’s lead to 14-5.

Just as the Rising began to get on top however, in the 35th minute, Queensland’s Angus Blyth scored the answering try after a pick and go from a ruck right on the Country’s try line.

Tuttle was able to convert his first of the afternoon to cut the margin to two points at the half time break.

The Country quickly set the tone at the start of the second half.

In the 44th minute, winger Jock Campbell busted through two big tackle attempts from Anaru Rangi and Michael Ruru to slam the ball over the try line in the corner.

The Rising’s reply was immediate though. A scrum five metres out from the try line overwhelmed the Country’s forward pack, and a quick take by Ruru followed by a quick pass to King, allowing the number 10 to score his first try.

King converted his own work to give the Rising a 21-17 lead.

Two minutes later in the 52nd minute, the Country were able to grab an immediate response.

A great passage of passing play in the middle saw the ball swung left to the speedy Joey Fittock, who dove into the corner for a superb try, regaining a one-point lead for his team.

The Rising’s hopes of a quick reply were dashed in the 62nd minute, when a rolling maul at the Country try-line was too hard to defend and Queensland’s Efi Maafu crossed for a try.

Number 10 James Stewart converted his chance comfortably to leave the Rising trailing 21-29.

Down by eight points, the Rising’s hopes of snatching victory were raised when in the 78th minute, a strong carry from Isi Naisarani after another brilliant scrum, allowed the number eight to scramble over the try line.

Substitute Kemu Valetini converted to make the contest a one-point ball game with two minutes to go.

However, a turnover in the 79th minute allowed Queensland to hold onto the ball and absorb the Rising’s pressure, securing their second straight win in 2018.

The Rising now turn their attention to next Saturday, when they face the NSW Country Eagles at Glen Willow Regional Sports Stadium.