By Elliot Raiter
The Road Safety Perth Spirit have opened their account for the 2017 National Rugby Championships with a hard-fought 45-33 victory over the Melbourne Rising at McGillivray Oval on Sunday Afternoon.
In an entertaining 80 minutes, the men in black and gold showed their dominance with a five try opening half, before adding three more after the break to run out 12-point victors.
Perth Spirit captain Michael Ruru was pleased with the first up win
“It was great to get our first win in front of a packed crowd of WA rugby fans.”
“Melbourne Rising are a good team and they really took it up to us today.
“Some of our forwards did well for us today. I thought Matty Philip was really strong around the ground and Isi Naisarani was good in the back row.
“Overall a really good team performance but we know that we have some work to do defensively before next week in Canberra.”
Earlier, the home side didn’t take long to open the scoring with Isi Naisarani crossing over for the first try of the campaign. After initially breaking through the Rising defense, the Fijian was on the end of a Micheal Ruru pass to slide over with ease after two minutes.
The Spirit extended their lead moments later, with Wallaby Tetera Faulkner getting on the end of a quick lineout, receiving an offload from Matt Philip, before finishing off in the right-hand corner.
Despite being down 14-0 after five minutes the away side hit back, with Sione Tuiplotu bustling over from close ranger after a terrific solo effort for Nic Stirzaker to draw the last defender.
Marika Koroibete then leveled the score seconds later, after fullback Jack Maddocks handed off the easiest of tries down the left hand side, with the winger making it 14-all.
Wallaby Pek Cowan re-gained the lead for the hosts after a number of brutal phases from the WA men. The Spirit earned a scrum metres from the line, before the number one launched over from close range.
Billy Meakes was instrumental in the next phase of play, breaking the line through the middle of the field, before the ball was flung out right to an unmarked Chance Peni, eventually crossing over under the posts.
Peni went from hero to villain shortly after to be sent off for a deliberate knockdown, with the Rising capitalising as Jack McGregor finished off a beautiful set piece try to draw the visitors within five points.
Marcel Brache made sure the Spirit went to the break on top however, receiving a strong cut out pass from captain Ruru, before eliminating the last defender to leave the home side ten points up at the break.
Jimmy Verity-Amm opened the second half in style down the left, with the winger receiving the ball on the 22, before burning the Rising defense and diving over for a one-handed finish.
Koroibete kept his side in the contest five minutes later scoring his second try of the contest. Quick thinking from scrum half Stirzaker saw a tap and go resulting in a line break, before Koroibete clung on to an offload to record a double.
Faulkner followed his counterpart with a double of his own, diving over again from close range to take the lead back out to 17 points with 15 minutes remaining.
Maddocks was able to add a consolation try for the Rising with 10 minutes remaining, as the fullback crossed over on the right to reduce the margin to 12 points.
The Spirit held on for the remaining minutes and ran out 12-point winners in front of a packed ‘Hill’, to get their title defense off to the perfect start.
Next up the Road Safety Perth Spirit travel to the nation’s capital to do battle with the Canberra Vikings on Sunday, 10 September.