The Perth Spirit have launched themselves into a playoff position (top 4) in their final regular season match, handing the Greater Sydney Rams a convincing 63 to 39 point shellacking.
Fans were thrilled with a try every 320 seconds (5.33 mins) of play, with a total of 15 five pointers being scored throughout the 80 minute encounter, the most of any National Rugby Championship (NRC) match in 2015 with only one round remaining.
The Rams scored 6 tries in defeat for the second time this season, more then any other losing team in 2015. While the Spirit join Canberra Vikings with the second most tries scored in a match this season (9), only being better by the aforementioned Vikings (11) in their 76-16 win against the Sydney Stars.
The Spirit started the match possessed by their hopes of again qualifying for the finals series. They came out of the sheds all guns blazing, with each Maalonga Konelio, Albert Nikoro an Fa’amanatu Apineru all scoring for the away side in the first 12 minutes of the match. Ian Prior had the goods on all three conversion attempts, bringing the score to 24-0.
Jed Holloway, the home sides inspirational captain got the home side on the board, crashing over the line to score the first of his hat-trick in the match. The unconverted kick from Matt Teki saw the Rams edge closer to the Spirit, 24-5.
Brad Lacey was next to score for the Spirit, before Holloway crossed the line for his second of the match, both kicks were converted and the scoreboard read 32-13.
The Spirit finished the first half in the same fashion that it got underway, with three quick tries to Fa’amanatu Apineru, Ryan Louwrens and Kyle Godwin. Ian Prior converted two of the three tries, as the boys from Perth achieve their half century in the first segment of play, 53-13.
The Rams come out firing in the second half, looking lethal with ball in hand as Matt gibbon crossed for a try and Holloway completed his hat-trick, closing the gap to 53-26.
The Spirit were quick to halt the ‘rampede’, as Louwrens scored off a darting run. Ex-Waratah and Aussie 7s player Afa Pakalani and secondrower Will Munro got the Rams back on track with the next two tries. With Teki off the field, Tayler Adams took the role as kicker, converting his first and missing an easy second kick to bring the score to 58-39.
With no games left in the bank and trailing a top four finish, the Spirit were up by two tries and chasing a plus three try bonus point win*. With seven minutes remaining, it was Nikoro who completed his brace of tries after slotting through the tiring Rams’ defensive line.
Full Time: Greater Sydney Rams 39 – 63 Perth Spirit
THE GAME CHANGER
The game changer came in the 73rd minute when Albert Nikoro provided the Perth Spirit with their bonus point try, edging them ahead of the Melbourne Rising on the table.
The Rising claimed a five point win against the NSW Country Eagles (23-16) in this weeks penultimate round and require at least a bonus point loss** against third placed Sydney Stars next Sunday, in order to qualify for the playoff series.
THREE. TWO. ONE
3 Points- Ian Prior directed a dominant Spirit backline around the paddock, converting 6 of 9 (66.66%) conversions from the boot. He passed well, made sniping runs and was solid off the boot in what was a comprehensive performance.
2 Points- Jed Holloway put out a dominant performance yet again for the Rams. He is a barnstorming runner, with great pace and an ever threatening offload. He has surely raised his hand to take over the role of departing Wycliff Palu for the NSW Waratahs.
1 Point- Fa’amanatu Apineru was also dangerous with ball in hand for the Spirit, scoring two tries and coming close on a number of other occasions.
Bonus Point Win*– the winning team is awarded a bonus point for finishing 3 or more tries ahead of their opponents.
Bonus Point Loss**– the losing team is awarded a bonus point for finishing within 8 points of the winning team.
NRC laws from http://www.rugby.com.au/nrc/About/LawVariation.aspx