In perfect rugby conditions in Frankston, and a battle for semi-final berths, both Melbourne Rising and Sydney Stars came away with the minimum result required to see their seasons continue.
After the NSW Country Eagles won with a bonus point over the North Harbour Rays on Saturday afternoon, the Sydney Stars needed a bonus point at minimum to secure their spot in the Buildcorp National Rugby Championship semi-finals. The Rising needing a win to secure theirs.
It was clear from the outset that both teams were there to play.
Melbourne Rising opened the scoring after 7 minutes, with Ben Meehan scoring a sniping halfback try from a ruck close to the line. Debreczeni was unable to convert, but the home team took an early 5-0 lead.
In a quick reply, Harry Jones snatched the intercept on half way and scooted down the left touchline to score out wide. A missed conversion from Angus Roberts took the scores to 5-5.
The scores were locked at 5 a-piece for much of the first half, but with 10 minutes remaining the Rising spun the ball quickly out wide, with Jordy Reid throwing the final pass to Justin Marsters to score in the corner. Debreczeni converted from the sideline for 13-5.
Consistent pressure inside the Rising 22 saw the Stars come close to scoring, but a loose ball picked up by Melbourne winger Stacy Ili, saw him sprint 70m for the Rising’s third try. Unconverted, the home team now led 18-5.
Just as it looked like the Rising would take their 13-point lead into the break, veteran Tom Carter made a half break getting his side back inside the Melbourne 22. After a few quick rucks, the Stars pushed the ball right to find young debutant Guy Porter running out of room on the touchline. A miracle flick pass from Porter found Jim Stewart inside, who scored untouched. A wind-affected conversion by Roberts went wide, leaving the Rising in front 18-10 at halftime.
The Stars kicked off for the final half of the regular season, but for the next 35 minutes a combination of solid defense and ill discipline saw scoring opportunities for both sides go begging, and the halftime score unchanged.
The Rising looking the better team in attack, and the Stars giving ball away inside their own 22 on a number of occasions, the visitors were required to defend strongly to hold the Rising out.
The final minutes of play had the Stars playing to hold on to the 8-point deficit and the bonus point they needed.
Despite a scoreless second half and the lowest scoring game in NRC history, the 18-10 win to Melbourne meant both teams finished the season with 20 competition points, and enough to clinch the final two semi-final positions.
Finishing in 4th position, the Sydney Stars look to take on minor premiers Brisbane City next Saturday at Ballymore, while the Melbourne Rising travel to the nation’s capital to take on The University of Canberra Vikings on Friday night.
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