The Canberra Vikings took a risk in resting some of their key players in the final round match up against Queensland Country, but still managed to come away with a relatively easy victory on the Sunshine Coast.
Despite having leaving out the likes of Ita Vaea and Christian Lealiifano, the Vikings barely skipped a beat as they scored a comprehensive 42-8 win. It was a scrappy encounter, which included a scoreless last quarter and plenty of dropped ball, it was the more clinical play of the Vikings that secured the victory. Whilst Queensland Country struggled to hold on to the ball or get any go forward in the backs, the Vikings managed to stay composed and pick up the scoring plays when most needed.
Canberra were off to a flyer early on with young Queensland flyhalf, Mitch Third, charging down a clearing kick from Sam Greene and recovering to score under the posts at the five minute mark. His halves partner, Brett Hamlin, would be over himself about ten minutes later after a strong Viking scrum to put the visitors in front 16-0 after fifteen minutes.
The scrum battle was without doubt the highlight of the night with some momentous scrummages. The Viking finished the night on top and produced many a powerful scrum, however Queensland Country were still able to upset their opponents at the set piece on occasions. It was wonderful to watch.
When Vikings fullback, Isaac Thompson broke the line to put his winger James Dargaville over for another Canberra try to extend the lead to 21-0 it looked to be a long night for Country. However their skipper looked set to inspire them in a comeback with James Tuttle darting over from a messy scrum win. Other than some more fantastic scrummaging battles, that would be the last action of the half and teams would go to the plush Sunshine Coast Stadium change rooms ready for a rest for the second half.
Unfortunately for Country it was only the Vikings who came out after Oranges with more points in them and they only had to wait a few minutes to get them. Tight Head Prop, Leslie Leulua’iali’i-Makin charged through the Queensland defence to score a well deserved try. Whilst we all love a ‘fat man try’ the try of the match was scored soon after by winger Lausii Taliauli who ran at a 45 degree angle to score in the corner with a flying leap that took out the corner post however allowed the ball to be safely grounded.
Whilst Queensland couldn’t hold on to the ball or find their man with a pass, the Vikings reverted to type and charged over for another try from a strong driving maul with debutant Dan Penca the recipient of the try for his team. With the conversion missed, this would be the last points of the match as the final twenty minutes descending into frustrating footy with some poor handling.
The result was expected and makes no real change to the finals, at this stage. The Vikings jump to the top of the ladder but will only stay there if Brisbane City suffer a shock loss to the Rams on Saturday. For Queensland Country it was an end to another disappointing season filled with inconsistent performances, a hell of a lot of key injuries yet the emergence of some very exciting talent.
Some could say it was anyone of the first three tries of the match but once Tuttle dashed over, and with 8 point tries making comeback rugby easier to play, it was Makin’s try four minutes into the second half that really sealed the deal for the Vikings.
The GAGR MOTM
In a game in which the scrum was the standout component, then who else could get the player of the match than one of the front rowers? Allan Alaalatoa was massive in the scrum and gave Sef Fa’agase a tough time any time they faced off. He was also busy around the field making some powerful runs. His hooking buddy, Robbie Abel was also very strong as was Rory Arnold at lock.
OZ Baabaa watch
Mitch Third couldn’t have started the game better and did some very good things in his first start in the NRC whilst openside flanker Rowan Perry was everywhere and secured some key turnovers. Once again in the scrum Haydn Hirsimaki was very strong whilst Conor Mitchell impressed when he came on early from the bench.
Qld Country: 8
J. Tuttle 28'
S. Greene (1/1) 29'
UC Vikings: 42
M. Third 4'
B. Hamlin 14'
J. Dargaville 22'
L. Makin 43'
L. Taliauli 48'
D. Penca 54'
I. Thompson (4/6) 5', 15', 44', 55'
Queensland Country: 1. Haydn Hirsimaki, 2. Alex Mafi, 3. Sef Fa'agase, 4. Milton Sikuea, 5. Phil Potgieter, 6. Tyrell Barker, 7. Maclean Jones, 8. James Turner; 9. James Tuttle, 10. Sam Greene, 11. Pierce Fitzgerald, 12. Tyrone Lefau, 13. Campbell Magnay, 14. Tom Pincus, 15. Tom Banks. Reserves: 16. Campbell Wakely, 17. Reuben Leilua, 18. Taniela Tupou, 19. Richie Arnold, 20. Conor Mitchell, 21. Scott Malolua, 22. Dion Taumata, 23. Mack Mason. Coach: Jason Gilmore
University of Canberra Vikings: 1. Allan Alaalatoa, 2. Robbie Abel, 3. Leslie Lealua-iali'i-Makin, 4. Rory Arnold, 5. Blake Enever, 6. Dean Oakman-Hunt, 7. Rowan Perry, 8. Jarrad Butler; 9. Brent Hamlin, 10. Mitch Third, 11. Lausii Taliauli, 12. Rodney Iona, 13. Nigel Ah Wong, 14. James Dargaville, 15. Isaac Thompson. Reserves: 16. Albert Anae, 17. Sione Taula, 18. Ben Alexander, 19. Dan Penca, 20. Jordan Smiler, 21. Joe Powell, 22. Jake Rakic, 23. Francis Fainifo. Coach: Brad Harris.
Feature Image courtsey of Reds Rugby.