Rising book semi-finals with bonus point
The Melbourne Rising have secured their spot in the 2016 Buildcorp National Rugby Championship semi-finals despite going down to the Sydney Rays 38-32 at Frankston Oval on Sunday.
The Rising will contest finals for the third consecutive year when they take on minor premiers NSW Country Eagles in the semi-final after they secured a bonus point to finish outright fourth.
The Rays, who secured a home semi-final with their second place finish, were held scoreless in the second half but successfully fended off a gallant comeback from the Rising to claim a five-try to four victory.
The visitors used the gusty conditions to their advantage in the first-half to score their full complement of tries to take a 36-16 lead into the break.
The Rays opened the scoring with two tries in five minutes from Jack Dempsey and Con Foley for an early 14-0 advantage before the Rising immediately responded to take a two-point lead.
Rising fullback Jonah Placid threw a dummy and slipped through the defence to open the Rising’s account before Colby Fainga’a, who made his first appearance of the season after a knee injury, found Steve Cummins in support to score his first career NRC try.
With the wind at their back, the Rays scored three unanswered tries before half-time when Dewet Roos beat a couple defenders in the 19th minute, Harry Jones pounced on a turnover ten minutes later and Irae Simone crossed in the shadows of half-time.
The hosts couldn’t have asked for a better start to the second-half when captain Tom English sliced through the defence to pin the Rays deep in their half before prop Tyrel Lomax crashed over for his maiden try in the 43rd minute.
A gritty second half, underlined by turnovers forced by the blustery conditions, was finally broken five minutes from fulltime when English scored under the posts and secure the bonus point.
A great run from Frankston-native Sione Tuipulotu broke through the defensive line before he found English in support, who showed the defence a clean pair of heels to put the Rising into the semi-finals.
“Credit to the Rays, they’re a very good side, strong around the set piece, carry very strongly and defensively one of the best team’s in the competition,” Rising head coach Zane Hilton said.
“Whilst we’re happy to be in the semi-finals, we’ve limped there to be fair but anything can happen so we’re excited to be there and looking forward to playing the Eagles.
“Two weeks in a row we’ve played in those (windy) conditions, it was another learning opportunity for the players, but it made it tough.”
Sydney Rays 38 (Dempsey, Foley, Roos, Jones, Simone tries; Sinclair 3 cons) defeated Melbourne Rising 32 (Placid, Cummins, Lomax, English tries; Johansson 3, Snowden 1 cons)
2016 Buildcorp National Rugby Championship Semi-Final
NSW Country Eagles v Melbourne Rising
Saturday, October 15
Newcastle No.2 Sportsground, Newcastle
Kick-off: 3.00pm (AEDT)
News Source: Melbourne Rising/Rebels Media