Round 4 of the inaugural National Rugby Championships kicks off today in Melbourne (AAMI Park). The ‘R U Okay? Day’ matchup, pins Melbourne up against Perth, but will Melbourne keep Rising? Or will Perth have the Spirit to come back from two loses on the trot?
The Rising are returning home to play for their fourth straight win, from as many games. In their first three games, they have scored 25 tries and have an average of 60 points per game, demonstrating the most lethal attack in the competition.
Captain, Nick Stirzaker, leads an experienced backline around the paddock, that includes Melbourne Rebels’ hit man Mitch Inman, young gun Jack Debreczeni and man on a mission Telusa Veainu. There is so much class in the backline that the bench is stacked, with ex-Wallabies half, Luke Burgess and last weeks four time try scorer, Tom English.
In Round 3, the Rising scored a competition high of 79 points to 13, toppling the previously undefeated Queensland City. They have also previously beaten the Rays and Stars ,convincingly.
Previous Results: W, W, W
The Spirit look to regathering form, after winning their game in round 1 against the Viking, 28-23 and losing their next two succeeding games, against Brisbane City, 26-21 and the Rams, 44-34. The boys from the wild, wild west will blood an all new front row combination and propel WA Under 20’s openside flanker Richard Hardwick, in for a starting debut. A few other adjustments have been made to the forward pack while Justin Turner returns to starting scrumhalf, in the only change of the backline.
The forward pack will again miss the experience and strengths of Pec Cowan and Matt Hodgson who are absent for another week due to their Wallabies selections.
Previous Results: W, L, L
Players to keep an eye out for:
Melbourne Rising– Jack Debreczeni has been instrumental in the Rising’s strong offensive backline. The young fly-half is topping the competition for points (58) and has been successful both with the boot and around the paddock. His current goal is to help the Rising win the NRC, however he is looking to cement a starting spot for the Melbourne Rebels, in Super Rugby. His 2014 campaign was impeded through early injuries, however he received five caps at the back end of the season, showing promising signs. He told ESPN that he wants “to be able to perform [his] role the best [he] can for the team on a consistent basis”, saying that he will “also be looking to get physically stronger” to help him “compete with some of the bigger bodies in the Super Rugby.”
Perth Spirit– Justin Turner returns to the starting number 9 jersey for the Spirit against the Rising. The Western Force scrumhalf, was once one of Australia’s brightest young talents, signing for the Force from the 2009 season before making his debut in 2010 against the Stormers, in the same year he represented Australia Under 20 team. Since his debut, he has been plagued with knee injuries, having three major operations to his anterior and medial cruciate ligaments, which first started with an ACL tear at the junior world championships in 2010. He still has a lot to offer and wants to fight his way back into form.
Rising: (1-15) Toby Smith, Pat Leafa, Paul Alo-Emile, Sam Jeffries, Cadeyrn Neville, Luke Jones, Sean McMahon, Lopeti Timani, Nic Stirzaker (C), Jack Debreczeni, Joe Kamana, Mitch Inman (VC), Sefanaia Naivalu, Telusa Veainu, Jonah Placid
Reserves: Tom Sexton, Tuiatua Tuia, Cruze Ah-Nau, Pom Simona, Sione Taufa, Luke Burgess, Lloyd Johansson, Tom English
Spirit: (1-15) Joe Savage, Harry Scoble, Chris Heiberg, Rory Walton, Brent Murphy, Brynard Stander, Richard Hardwick, Alex Rovira, Justin Turner, Dillyn Leyds, Nili Fielea, Luke Burton, Ammon Matuauto, Brad Lacey, Zack Holmes
Reserves: Robbie Abel, Alec Hepburn, Oliver Hoskins, Corey Thomas, Kane Koteka, Michael Ruru, Davis Tavita, Va’a Mailei
Match Odds: (Sportsbet.com.au) as of 10am Thursday
Rising $1.04, Spirit $11
Safe Bet: Win Margin: Rising to win by 13 or more points $1.22
Risky Bet: Line: Rising (-25.5) line $1.90
Dropped on your head as a baby bet: First try scorer: Telusa Veainu $7
Rising to win by 28 points– make sure you get to the game to ask the Spirit if they are okay after the walloping.
Written by Nelson Dale