Round four of the #DewarShield confirmed the Melbourne Unicorns as one of the teams to beat, whilst the Footscray Bulldogs showed they have room to improve. The game was well played by both teams and hung in the balance up until the last 15 minutes. Eventually, the visitors collapsed and the Unicorns ran away with a 37 – 21 victory. The Unicorns were able to use their reserves to good effect, whilst the Dogs showed their lack of depth and fitness.
The first half started with the Unicorns exerting some good pressure on the visitors. The Dogs responded with a number of penalties, in a vain attempt to stop the Unicorns. Referee O’Brien tired of the cynical infringements, showing the first yellow card after just six minutes. Footscray Prop Soane Naufahu was the unlucky recipient.
Unicorns’ flyhalf McConnochie couldn’t capitalise on the opportunity, missing a penalty kick.
The numerical advantage led to the first try of the match, scored by Unicorns’ number 8 Anare Koliavu, McConnochie missed the conversion, leaving the score at 5 – 0 to the Unicorns after nine minutes.
The Dogs defended well for the rest of the yellow-card period, conceding no further points. Even with one man down, their scrum was still impressive.
When Naufahu returned to the field, the Bulldogs scored a beautiful try. Martin Naufahu, with some help from the loose forwards, was able to find a gap in the midfield to score the try. He converted his own try to make the score 7 – 5 to the Dogs.
After a fierce battle in the midfield, Melbourne earned a kickable penalty. The kick from Samuel Vaevae was successful, gifting the lead to Melbourne. The score 8 – 7 to the Unicorns.
Footscray applied pressure late in the half and they were almost rewarded with another try. They turned down a kickable penalty for a lineout, only to cough up possession. Both teams headed to the sheds for oranges with the score 8 – 7 to the Unicorns.
The second half started well for the Dogs as they put the Unicorns under early pressure. This turned into penalties, and eventually a yellow card for Melbourne Centre Josh Cocker- Valu.
The advantage of an extra man helped the Dogs score another try, this time from a forwards shunt. Naufahu converted to make the score 14 – 8 to the Dogs.
Melbourne started to use the bench and injected four fresh players into the game.
McConnochie left the field and Mick Snowden switched to flyhalf and the Rebels scrumhalf impressed in the role for the rest of the game. The Dogs stuck with their XV making only two changes from the bench.
The moves from Melbourne Head Coach Tumai Edwards worked and the fresher Unicorns were able to move around a tiring opponent. Mataiasi Nairava exposed the gaps in the Bulldog’s backs and crossed the line twice to put his team back in front. Vaevae converted one of the tries, moving the score to 18 – 14 to the Unicorns.
The collapse from the visitors was complete in the following minutes when the Unicorns scored another three tries in the narrow space of six minutes to put the game behind Bulldogs’ reach.
Before the final whistle, there was time for Daisuke Yamada, to score an 80-metre try.
Main Photo: Emily Lyons
Melbourne Unicorns 37
Tries: Anare Koliavu 9’ ; Mataiasi Nairava 54’, 68’; Michael Snowden 72’; John Aho 75’; Michael Kako 78’
Conv.: Paul McConnochie 0/1; Samuel Vaevae 2/4 ; Michael Snowden 1/1
Pen.: McConnochie 0/1; Samuel Vaevae 1/1
Footscray Bulldogs 21
Tries: Martin Naufahu 17’; TBD 51’; Keisuke Yamada 80’
Conv.: Isaiah Leota 2/2; Keisuke Yamada 1/1