Spirit secure Grand Final berth
The Perth Spirit have booked their place in the 2016 Buildcorp National Rugby Championship Grand Final with a 42-24 win over the Sydney Rays at Pittwater Park in Sydney this afternoon.
The Rays started strongly shooting out to a 16-0 lead within the first 10-minutes but from there it was all the Spirit as the men in black and gold scored 20 unanswered points to lead by four at the break.
Three second half tries wrapped up the result for the Spirit and secured a date with the NSW Country Eagles in Tamworth for next weekend’s decider.
Spirit captain Heath Tessmann said he was pleased with the way his side worked to secure the team’s second grand final appearance in the last three seasons.
“We are obviously very happy with the win but we aren’t getting too far ahead of ourselves,” he said.
“The way we came out and played in that first half set it up for us again. We ground them down in the first 40-minutes and we were able to run over the top of them a bit in the second.”
Tessmann praised the work of Ian Prior who put in a man-of-the-match performance at flyhalf in place of the injured Jono Lance.
“The old turbo diesel, he’s a bit slow but he gets us going forward and keeps the ball in front of us forwards which is really important, he was really big for us today.”
The Rays were the first to hit the scoreboard going nearly the length of the field in a frantic sequence of play ending with Irae Simone setting up hooker Damien Fitzpatrick for the opener. Matt Lucas converted to hand the Rays and early 8-0 lead.
Just minutes later the Sydney-siders were in again as Harry Jones burst through three Spirit tacklers to go over in the left corner. Lucas converted yet again to give the Rays a 16-point buffer after 11-minutes.
The Spirit responded quickly with a brilliant piece of skill from Ian Prior setting up Semisi Masirewa to collect a perfectly weighted grubber kick and touch down in the right corner. Prior’s conversion attempt drifted across the face to keep the score at 16-6.
Working their way back into the contest the Spirit put together some solid phases before Bill Meakes set up Marcel Brache with a beautiful no-look inside ball allowing the winger to charge in from 30-metres. Prior coolly added the extras to close the gap to just two-points.
Beginning to dominate possession the Spirit put on a massive scrum to earn a penalty before driving deep into the Rays’ 22 and just three phases later Ian Prior found space to crash over for the Spirit’s third of the opening half. Prior couldn’t convert as the Spirit went into the halftime break leading by four on the back of 20 unanswered points.
The Spirit came out firing after the interval when Luke Morahan broke the line and found Ian Prior on his inside before the flyhalf chipped and chased to score his second of the contest. Prior converted his own effort to extend the margin to 28-16.
With both side’s down to 14-men after Bill Meakes and Jack Dempsey were shown yellow the Spirit made the most of the advantage in the forward pack executing a brilliant rolling maul with Heath Tessmann controlling the ball at the back to score. Prior converted to push the margin to 20-points in favour of the men from the west.
With time against them the Rays looked to put themselves pack in the hunt as Richard Woolf showed some serious pace to dart down the right wing and score under the posts. Angus Sinclair converted with a quick drop goal to reduce the deficit to 12-points with 10-minutes to play.
Determined to ice the game the West Australians applied pressure in the Rays’ 22 to force a lineout just five metres from the line before a strong rolling maul allowed Anaru Rangi to fall over for the Spirit’s sixth of the afternoon. Prior’s conversion struck the upright but it mattered little as the Spirit booked their place in the Grand Final with a 42-24 victory.
The Spirit now shift their focus to next week’s grand final against the NSW Country Eagles in Tamworth on Saturday, 22 October.
News Source: Perth Spirit/RugbyWA