The Canberra Vikings have retained the Horan Little shield with a tough 22-16 win over a determined Western Sydney Rams side in Canberra.
In a game where conditions made for tough going, a late Vikings try to replacement hooker Connal McInerney was the difference in the end with the Vikings scoring three tries to the Rams’ two.
The Vikings were on the back foot in the opening five minutes with the Rams having all the play inside the Vikings 22.
On the back of a penalty, they should have opened the scoring but knocked on right on the line to let the hosts of the hook.
The home side finally got their chance to get into the Rams half and worked patiently through the forwards in the greasy conditions but they too blew their first attacking chance with a truck and trailer infringement from a lineout.
With the conditions suiting forwards play, the Rams went to one out play effectively with Will Skelton getting through a lot of work in the opening 20 minutes.
The mountain of possession was too much for the Vikings in the end with the Rams scoring the opening try to Apolosi Latunipulu after he sliced through the Vikings defence. Paul Asquith converted to give the visitors a deserved 8-0 lead.
As the first half wore on, the Vikings handling was letting them down in key areas of the field and things didn’t get easier with Robbie Coleman forced off the field with a head knock after colliding with David Minute.
The Rams discipline was hurting them as back-to-back penalties in their 22 allowed the Vikings easy field position and it was winger Lausii Taliauli who scored out wide.
That didn’t seem to worry the Rams as they came straight back down the field with a nice grubber kick from Scott Gale giving putting the Vikings under pressure only metres from their line and it was again their forwards hitting it up and big second rower Senio Toleafoa scored from close range for the Rams second try of the day and a 16-6 lead.
In the shadows of half time, the Vikings received a penalty that allowed them to attack in the Rams 22 and off a rolling maul, prop Siona Taula scored a much needed try and Nick Jooste’s conversion from wide out made it 16-14 at the half time break.
The continuing rain in the second half made it difficult for any real attack other than the forwards working away to make small gains.
Any attack the Vikings could get going was via their maul but the Rams pair of Skelton and Toleafoa nullified that.
The Vikings tried their hand and kicking in behind the Rams defence but that too came to nothing with a number of kicks going just too long to give the Rams an easy out.
With 15 minutes remaining, the Rams took advantage of a number of penalties within the Vikings 22 and used their strong scrum to keep the Vikings on their toes but couldn’t get over the line with the Vikings defence coming out on top including two turnovers from replacement hooker Connal McInerney.
With ten minutes to go the Vikings were camped in the Rams 22 and from a lineout they went to the rolling maul and McInerney dived over to the put the Vikings in front for the first time and Jooste’s conversion made it 22-16.
The Vikings had a number of chances to close out the game but penalties went against them to give the Rams one last hope but the home side held on for a tough six point win.
The Game Changer
It came down to the last ten minutes when the Vikings hit the lead for the first time in the match to finally got over the top of an unlucky Rams side.
The G&GR MOTM
Blake Enever (Vikings) – In conditions made for forwards, Enever worked hard in a solid 80 minute performance with a number of crucial lineout wins.
Oz Baabaa Watch
Connal McInerney (Vikings) – Came on in the second half and won a number of crucial turnovers and even bagged the match winning try.
David Minute (Rams) – Ran hard every time he got the ball and caused havoc.
Scott Gale (Rams) – Lead his team around well in the tough conditions and used his kicking game to good effect to push the Vikings back.
UC Vikings: 22
Jooste (2/3) 40', 71
Referee: Amy Perrett
WS Rams: 16
Asquith (2/2) 18', 37'
University of Canberra Vikings: 1. Sione Taula, 2. Robbie Abel, 3. Les Leulua’iali’i-Makin, 4. Blake Enever, 5. Sam Carter, 6. Tom Staniforth, 7. Dean Oakman-Hunt, 8. Jarrad Butler (c); 9. Joe Powell, 10. Robbie Coleman, 11. Lausii Taliauli, 12. Jordan Jackson-Hope, 13. Andrew Smith, 14. Andrew Robinson, 15. Nick Jooste. Replacements: 16. Connal McInerney, 17. Faalelei Sione, 18. Ray Dobson, 19. OJ Noa, 20. Darcy Swain, 21. Brent Hamlin, 22. Jake Rakic, 23. Jamie Kotz. Coach: Wayne Southwell.
Western Sydney Rams: 1. Matt Gibbon, 2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 3. David Lolohea, 4. Filimone Tufui, 5. Senio Toleafoa, 6. Rhys Allen, 7. Tupou Sopoaga, 8. Tyrone Viiga; 9. Scott Gale, 10. Paul Asquith (c), 11. Luke Smart, 12.* Mau David Minute, 13. Apolosi Latunipulu, 14. Albert Nikoro, 15. Vatemo Ravouvou. Replacements: 16. Nathan Charles, 17. Harrison Lloyd, 18. Jack Payne, 19. Tom Alexander, 20. Jordan Taupou, 21. Waldo Wessels, 22. Mitchell Walton, 23. Rob Buaserau. Coach: John Muggleton.
* Lineup changes