The Canberra Vikings have handed the Melbourne Rising a 22-47 loss in the opening round of the 2019 National Rugby Championship at Box Hill Rugby Union Club.
An inexperienced Rising side who boasted eight debutants in the starting line-up, were no-match for a Vikings outfit, headed by Melbourne-born, Wallaby-capped forward Pete Samu.
A 28-3 first half from the visitors did the damage, despite the Rising breaking even with a 19-19 second half.
The Vikings had seven individual try scorers with Irae Simone, Mackenzie Hansen, Andy Muirhead, Toni Pulu, Pete Samu, Noah Lolesio and Tom Wright all earning five pointers.
For the Rising, Captain Semisi Tupou, fullback Justin Marsters and lock Ross Haylett-Petty each scored a try. In sunny, yet windy conditions at Box Hill, the Rising made a quick start via a penalty conversion from Dewar Shield Payer of the Year Michael Moloney, who comfortably slotted his first ever NRC points.
However, the Vikings quickly stamped themselves on the contest when a line breaking run and offload from winger Toni Pulu allowed centre Irae Simone an easy run to the try line.
Half-back Ryan Lonergan made no mistake, giving Canberra a 7-3 lead.
The Rising were then caught napping at the set piece, when a clever switch-back from Lonergan set up an overlap on the left edge, and some pin-point passing led to Mackenzie Hansen running it in for a try. Lonergan kicked truly near the touch line, giving the Vikings a 14-3 lead.
Canberra continued to work towards the left side of the field, and their clever passing plays from the breakdown led to Andy Muirhead scoring his first try in the 27th minute. Lonergan continued his impressive kicking with another tough conversion made.
A well worked second man play out the back only moments later led to Toni Pulu pirouetting his way for a try. Another Lonergan conversion extended the Vikings’ lead to 28-3 into the half time break.
The second half started in another Vikings try, when in the 42nd minute, Pete Samu found a mismatch on the wing against Michael Moloney to bustle his way to the try line, further extending the visitors lead.
In the 55th minute however, the Rising scored their first try of the match when an impressive line break and offload from Moloney found a charging Justin Marsters, who managed to reach out and score a five pointer despite being tackled on the try line.
Yet just as the Rising looked to build momentum, another piece of quick ball movement gave Noah Lolesio an opportunity to show and go for his first try of the match, and another Lonergan conversion extended the Vikings’ lead back out to 32-points.
The Rising found the fortitude to respond when a quick line break from Marsters found Captain Semisi Tupou, who showed great pace to find a try in the corner. Moloney used the wind beautifully to decrease the margin to 25-points.
The Vikings responded thanks to a well worked try from Tom Wright, but it was Rising lock Ross Haylett-Petty who was to have final say, scoring his first try of the match in the 80th minute to give Melbourne a much more respectable score line.
Melbourne Rising 22
Tries: Marsters, Tupou & Haylett-Petty
Conversions: Moloney (2) Penalty Goals: Moloney
Canberra Vikings 47
Tries: Wright, Lolesio, Samu, Pulu, Muirhead, Hansen & Simone
Conversions: Lonergan (6)