The Melbourne Rising have fallen short of producing a second-half comeback, succumbing to the NSW Country Eagles by 10 points at Bailey Reserve, Adelaide.
The 29-19 score line in favour of the Eagles came off the back of a four try to two first half for the visitors, led by Aaron Blacklock’s two rolling maul tries.
While the Rising controlled vast amounts of possession in the second half, a Justin Marsters try to trim the margin to 10-points with 22 minutes to go proved to be the final points of the match.
NSW Country got off to a fast start when Aaron Blacklock scored in the first minute, but the Rising responded almost immediately via a scintillating individual length of the field running try from winger Nailati Uekele.
While the scores were locked at five all, NSW Country’s rolling mauls were causing havoc for Melbourne’s forward pack, and another brilliant drive from the set piece resulted in Blacklock scoring his second try in the 10th minute. A conversion from James Kane saw the Eagles extend their lead to 5-12.
NSW Country went further in front when a quick interception by Nigel Ah Wong and conversion by Kane had the visitors up by 14 two converted tries. Connor Vest further extended the Eagles’ lead when the lock was the beneficiary of another strong rolling maul from a lineout.
With the Rising down 24-5, the home side needed to dig deep to stay in the game, and some salvation came in the form of Ross Haylett-Petty who scored a terrific pick and go try on the stroke of half time. A Michael Moloney conversion after the siren trimmed the margin back to 24-12.
With the Rising looking to ride the momentum after the break, it was the Eagles who drew first blood via a terrific overlap passing play from their own back half, resulting in full back Tim Clements scoring in the corner.
With the Eagles looking ominous with ball in hand, the Rising did not waiver and 15 minutes of relentless possession from the home side finally resulted in a try to fullback Justin Marsters and a James So’oialo conversion trimmed the margin to 10 points.
The Rising, sniffing a comeback, produced relentless phases on NSW Country’s defensive lines, yet several chances to score went begging via lost possessions and errant passing.
When Eagles flanker Patrick Tafa was shown a yellow card with five minutes left, the Rising looked likely to use their extra man advantage, yet each forward thrust was repelled by staunch defence and pin-point rebound kicking by the Eagles.
It was ultimately a defence which proved too much for Melbourne to overcome.
However, the Rising will head into next week’s match against the Western Force in Perth chock full of confidence in their ability to retain possession for multiple phases.
Melbourne Rising 19
Tries: Aaron Blacklock (2), Nigel Ah Wong, Connor Vest, Tim Clements
Conversions: Kane (2)
NSW Country Eagles 29
Tries: Nailati Uekele, Ross Haylett-Petty, Justin Marsters
Conversions: Michael Moloney, Semisi Tupou