Pride in Sport ‘Rainbow Round’ was all about how you perform on the field and the Unicorns and Broncos put on a fitting display at Orrong Romanis Reserve. Melbourne’s Premier 1 team had to fight until the last second to hold back a late attempt by Box Hill to steal a win.
It was the second game for the Unicorns and the first at home after enjoying a comfortable 40-point away win against Power House in the opening round of the 2016 Direct Connect #DewarShield. They carried their momentum through the Easter break against the visitors, who had a bye in Round One.
It was an entertaining match as both teams scored freely in the first half, but Box Hill slowed down after the break. They conceded territory and possession to Melbourne, who took the lead but could not close the game out. This allowed the Broncos to mount a late attack which could have won them the game.
The Melbourne Unicorns had the only professional player on the field – Rebels and former Force scrum half Mick Snowden. He played in a class of his own and his remarkable defensive workload in the dying moments helped his team to seal the victory.
The game started in the best way possible for the home team as the Unicorns went over the chalk in rapid succession thanks to flyhalf Paul McConnochie. First, he scored on the left after a nice team effort; then he breached the defensive line under the posts. The second try was converted for an early 12-0 score.
But the Broncos deserved credit for not losing their concentration being down, 12-nil so early in the game. They regrouped quickly to get two tries back in the first quarter hour of play. Speedy winger Maciu Rokowaqa scored first for Box Hill, followed by open side flanker Jack Merrillees. Like the Unicorns, they missed one conversion to tie the score 12-all at 15 minutes.
The pyrotechnic first half of the game wasn’t over because Box Hill flyhalf, Alex Healey, put his team in the lead ten minutes later. The visitors had other chances to increase the margin and looked in control.
Before the end of the half the Unicorns had a rare excursion into the Box Hill 22 and scored thanks to Snowden, but the last hurrah of the half belonged to the visiting Broncos again as their flyhalf, Jone Nagalu, showed his skills to cross the line in the last play.
The Unicorns came back from the break determined to win and put the Broncos under pressure from the very beginning of the second half.
After several phases in the opponents 22 the Unicorns scored their fourth try with fullback Chris Ling out on the left corner. The conversion was again missed so the home team was still trailing by two points.
The Box Hill flair of the first half wasn’t there and their reaction was only limited to a couple of kick chases deep in the Unicorns half, albeit well-covered by the backs.
The higher workload of the Unicorns paid off at the the 56th minute when lock Shaun Mortensen, who dominated all the line outs in the game, picked up another tough ball and crossed the line carried by his team mates.
The deserved lead didn’t stop the Unicorns’ attacks, but on multiple occasions the last pass wasn’t precise enough and the score was locked at 27-24.
Box Hill had a late resurgence and threw the proverbial kitchen sink at the Unicorns despite being one man down in the last minutes. But it was time for Melbourne’s defence to shine and deliver the win. With the Broncos twice five metres from the try line the Unicorns held up gallantly and denied the visitors a last minute score.
Melbourne Unicorns 27
Tries: McConnochie 2’, 8’; Snowden 38’; Ling 48’; Mortensen 56′
Box Hill Broncos 24
Tries: Rokowaqa 12’; Merrillees 15’; Healey 25’; Nagalu 41′
Conv.: Vilitati 2/4