Spirit secure Finals berth in Canberra

Saturday October 8, 2016

The Perth Spirit have secured a place in the 2016 Buildcorp National Rugby Championship finals series with a 42-36 win over the Vikings in Canberra this afternoon.

The Perth side started on the defensive absorbing pressure in the early stages before fighting back to head into the half time break down 22-16.

The second half was a different story with the Spirit’s forward pack dominating the Vikings all over the park and putting on a clinic at scrum time to help the visitors come from behind for the win.

Spirit skipper Heath Tessmann says the team’s hard work in the opening half set the tone for the rest of the match.

“We really made them work hard at the set-piece and in contact at the start,” he said. “Our forward pack put in a great performance today at the scrum especially, our bench came in and finished the game strongly.”

Speaking on the upcoming finals campaign Tessmann says the team will embrace the opportunity.

“We are used to being on the road and we don’t care where we play as long as we keep going in this competition.”

With their finals chances hanging on the result the Vikings were the first to hit the scoreboard after Jordan Smiler set up winger Lausii Taliauli. Isaac Thompson converted to hand his side an 8-0 lead after nine-minutes.

The Vikings continued to dominate possession and ill disciple from the Spirit allowed the home side to go over again through winger Eli Sinoti. Thompson converted to extend the lead to 16-points.

Sensing the momentum of the contest the Spirit drove deep into Vikings territory after a string of offloads set up an attacking scrum 10-metres from the line. Brynard Stander picked up from the back of the scrum to charge in under the posts. Lance converted to bring the margin back to eight points.

The Vikings responded almost immediately executing a short lineout move to send Josh Mann-Rae over in the left corner. Thompson failed to add the extras leaving the score at 22-8.

With time ticking down in the second half the Spirit camped themselves in the Vikings’ half building pressure to force multiple penalties. After a solid scrum the West Australians swung the ball wide for Eric Vasukicakau to dart over. Prior converted to bring the Spirit within six-points.

The Vikings looked to respond in the closing stages of the first half but the Spirit stood strong to head into the sheds trailing 22-16.

After some back-and-forth play to begin the second half the Spirit again ventured deep into the 22 to earn a penalty. The Spirit’s scrum dominance continued as the forwards put on a massive shove to allow Ryan Louwrens to pick up and dive over from short range. Prior converted to put the Spirit ahead for the first time in match 24-22.

Despite two changes to the front row the Spirit continued to hammer the Vikings at scrum time turning yet another five-metre scrum into a try as Brynard Stander controlled the ball at the back to fall over for his second of the day. Prior made no mistake to push the lead to 10-points.

Needing a win to keep their slim finals hopes alive the Vikings struck back with Josh Mann-Rae securing his double only for the Spirit to respond immediately as Bill Meakes pick-and-drove for his maiden Perth Spirit try. AJ Alatimu converted to extend the margin to 12-points.

With the clock against them the Vikings gave themselves hope after a Robbie Able line-break set up Isaac Thompson for the try. Thompson converted to pull the home side within four points.

The Vikings attempted to go 90-metres off the kick-off to win the game but Ross Haylett-Petty got on the ball at the breakdown to force the penalty.

As the siren sounded AJ Alatimu knocked over a penalty to ice the game 42-36 and book the Spirit’s place in the semi-finals.

News Source: RugbyWA/Perth Spirit