The Melbourne Unicorns have claimed back to back Dewar Shield premierships with a hard fought 37-15 victory over the Box Hill Broncos.
The Unicorns, led by star scrum half and best afield recipient Reece Fuller, proved too strong for a valiant Broncos side in cold and windy conditions at Box Hill Rugby Union Club.
Melbourne full back James So’oialo was a key contributor to his side’s victory, scoring 15 points from conversions and penalties, while four tries from William Lewesi, Samuel Vaevae, Taimo Matau and Maciu Nabolakasi helped the Unicorns secure victory.
It’s the 20th time the Unicorns have lofted the coveted Dewar Shield, making it three from four Grand Final victories since 2016, while the heartache continues for the Broncos, who will enter the 2019 offseason searching for the first premiership since 2001.
It was the Unicorns who started fast and applied early scoreboard pressure thanks to two quick penalty conversions to James So’oialo, giving Melbourne a 6-0 start.
Some wild field-kicking plagued the next 15 minutes, with both sides failing to adjust to the stiff breeze swinging across the ground.
Melbourne looked the more powerful side with their strong carries and pin-point lineout defence, causing Box Hill havoc around the ground.
It proved to be too much when in the 30th minute, a strong run from Unicorns’ Reece Fuller opened up the Box Hill defence on the short side, and a quick pass to bustling winger William Lewesi resulted in the game’s first try.
A fortuitous conversion kick from So’oialo rattled through the uprights off the post, resulting in the Unicorns taking a 13-0 lead.
All was not lost for the Broncos however, when flyhalf Michael Maloney kicked a clinical penalty conversion, giving Box Hill their first points of the game.
Just as it looked like the deficit would remain 10-points at half time, in the 39th minute, a fantastic combination between Telea- Afa Faatau and So’oialo down the wing resulted in an opportunistic kick and chase try from Samuel Vaevae.
Another sweetly struck conversion from So’oialo pushed the score out to 20-3 at half time.
Box Hill got their comeback off to the best possible start when in the 48th minute, a patient build up only five metres from the try line resulted in Onesema Hafoka charging over for a try. Maloney converted comfortably to make it a 20-10 ball game.
Yet just as the Broncos looked like they were mounting a charge, the Unicorns also showed their patience in attack, when they scored a similar try only minutes later through Taimo Matau and the golden boot of So’oialo ensured the lead extended back out to 17-points.
In a game which now ebbed and flowed more freely, Box Hill responded when a terrific charge down and chase from Gerard Logan, resulted in a quick pass to substitute Leone Cama, who trimmed the score to 27-15.
With the game on the line, the Broncos threatened to continue their comeback, but a 71st minute try to Melbourne’s Maciu Nabolakasi quashed any Box Hill resistance. So’oialo’s perfect kicking form continued, with the full back extending the score to 34-15.
A final penalty kick from So’oialo sealed the victory for the Unicorns, sending the Melbourne fans into raptures.
Tries: Nabolaski, Matau, Vaevae, Lewesi
Cons: So’oialo 4
Pens: So’oialo 3
Box Hill 15
Tries: Cama, Hafoka
Source: Rugby Vic Media / Photo by Kevin Juggins