Round One of the Direct Connect Dewar Shield got underway on the weekend, with the first Match of the Round between Melbourne and Footscray providing a thriller on a superb day at the Henry Turner Reserve.
At the final siren the score was level with both teams on 24 points. Despite the tied result, the teams left the game with contrasting performances, Footscray seemingly too big and too good, until an exciting late charge home from the visitors which included a hat-trick from Telusa Veainu.
Footscray were busy early and used their physicality to rush Melbourne on the ball. Harry Keys wasted no time before stamping his authority, the Footscray flyhalf scoring the game’s opening try within minutes.
The home side followed Harry’s lead and seemed too strong for much of the first half, as Melbourne held tough finding their feet somewhat 30 minutes in leaving the score at 13-3 at the break.
A hungrier, more mobile Melbourne outfit returned to the pitch in the second but Footscray’s Harry Keys and Martin Naufahu soon punctured holes in the visitor’s line once again.
Two tries from a lightning quick Danny Hartwell stretched the score line to a seemingly hopeless 24-3 for Melbourne, still without a try halfway through the final term.
The local crowd relished the scenario and made sure the visitors were in no doubt of the task at hand. Melbourne kept their cool however, and upped their tempo when most expected them to drop their heads.
Telusa Veainu’s first try for Melbourne improved the appearance of the scoreboard, and salvaged some pride. His second shortly after, gave them a chance at 21-17.
The game then fell into frenzy; both teams darting up and down the ground and players were pushed to their limits by the hard running style of play.
With minutes remaining Footscray made the most of a late penalty, and it appeared Melbourne’s hard work had been in vain.
Somehow however, as the game’s final seconds ticked over, Veainu was all of a sudden away for a third consecutive time. The untouchable Melbourne fullback charged through to the line to post his third try and cap a remarkable comeback.
Foostcray flyhalf Keys was awarded the year’s first Match of the Round’s Musashi Player of the Match. Despite not holding on for the win, Keys was instrumental in Footscray’s dominance for much of the game and an extremely worthy recipient of the Musashi prize pack.
Source: Melbourne Rebels by Jesse Lourey
Photographer: Andrew Stevenson