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Tuggeranong Vikings v Canberra Royals at Viking Park
The Canberra Royals have caused the upset of the season, silencing the Tuggeranong Vikings' 40th anniversary celebrations and announcing their premiership threat with an emotional 38-36 win at Viking Park.
It was an inspired attacking effort from the Royals, who scored two tries right around half time to grab the lead in what may have been their best five minute period all season.
The energy was arguably their best all season, and halves Mark Swanepoel and Craig McMahon directed play beautifully, with centre Pedro Rolando collecting one of the most crucial doubles all year.
The top of the table clash was always going to provide fitting entertainment for the home side's 40th anniversary, with a larger crowd than normal turning out for the clash.
While this gave an advantage to the Vikings, the Royals, being known as one of the hardest fighting side's in the competition, were always going try their best to eliminate the crowd.
And what better way than derail the almighty Vikings who were looking at 13 straight wins to claim the inaugural Wal Scollen in honour of a recently passed away Royal.
“We only had one bloke left on our reserve bench, so it was a great effort for the club,” said an ecstatic Royals coach Russell Ingram.
“It is about momentum. You need to get the ball going forward, and there were guys there that turned the game as well with individual brilliance.”
There was none other than Tom Cusack, who in the 68th minute pumped himself 40 metres through six defenders to score the try that got the Royals back in front.
The Royals came very close last time the sides met, going down by just four points in the season's first real top of the table clash.
Having won just three of their last six matches, they had to ensure consistency, and Ingram got what he wanted.
“We’ve just got to keep playing, keep trying to win, and get some momentum going into the finals, but we’ll certainly take that one [win over Vikings],” said Ingram.
Despite a Tim Cree try within the first one and a half minutes of play, the Vikings found themselves down at half time for the first time all season.
With a scoreline of 28-19, the home side also found themselves conceding the most points they had all year.
It was try for try in the second half, and the scores were locked at 33-all with 19 minutes to go- ensuring a grandstand finish.
The Royals were able to silence the home crowd, and the cheers from their side of the grandstand became more apparent.
Cusack’s try sealed the win.
Vikings coach Brad Harris said that tight results this season had finally evened themselves out.
“When you play the top teams in this competition you’ve got to be on your game for 80 minutes, and we weren’t,” he said.
Canberra Royals 38 (Rolando 2, Tamihere, Swanepoel, Cusack tries; McMahon 2 cons; 3 pens) bt Tuggeranong Vikings 36 (Proctor 2, Cree, Perry, Mokotupu tries; Holmes 4 cons; pen) at Viking Park.
Wests Lions v Eastern Suburbs at Griffith Oval
The Wests Lions have returned to the winners list and retained their spot in the top four after crushing Eastern Suburbs 52-18 at Griffith Oval on Saturday.
Despite facing a lower quality opposition, it was a much improved performance from the visitors who created far more opportunities with ball in hand compared with their lack-lustre 35-7 defeat to the Queanbeyan Whites in round 15.
Coach Craig Robberds was pleased with the effort his forwards put in, but said his men still need to work on their use of the ball out wide entering the business end of the season.
“We just want to execute given we’ve struggled in the last couple of weeks,” said Robberds.
While this clash against Easts may have been seen as an opportunity to put extra points on the board, Robberds said this definitely was not the focus of his men despite percentage being crucial in the latter stages of a season.
“Our plan was to just execute today. We were about 80 per cent right,” he said.
Robberds was particularly impressed with the performance of centre Mal Barnes, who stood above his fellow outside backs on the day.
Wests have a handy bye next week before heading into a clash with the Gungahlin Eagles which should be the battle for fourth spot.
Easts have done well to win four games this season which is the most they have won in two years, but they have struggled to get basic plays right.
Easts will have a great chance to register another win when they meet the Uni-Norths Owls in the final round, but they face the monumental task of tackling the Tuggeranong Vikings next week.
Wests Lions 52 bt Eastern Suburbs 18 at Griffith Oval
Gungahlin Eagles v Uni-Norths Owls at Nicholls Oval
The Gungahlin Eagles have continued their charge towards a finals spot after trouncing the hapless Uni-Norths Owls 45-5 at Nicholls Oval on Saturday.
The win continues a golden run of form for the competition’s northern most club, who have amassed 115 points in the last two rounds after their season-best 70-0 slaughtering of Eastern Suburbs in round 15.
A three game losing streak recently almost kissed their finals hopes goodbye, including a 43 point humiliation to the Tuggeranong Vikings, but they are now just three points out of the top four.
They have a tough run into the finals though, facing the Canberra Royals and the Wests Lions in the next fortnight.
The Royals will be coming off their remarkable win on the road against the Tuggeranong Vikings.
For Uni-Norths, the game summed up their whole season, and they will likely go without any wins.
Their best chance is a final round fixture with Eastern Suburbs.
Injuries and other player unavailability appear always an issue for the club, which will be embarking on a three year repair plan working from next season.
On Saturday this was again shown, with players being called up to first grade from all three lower grades, even colts at fourth grade, as two front rowers and a half were lost for the rest of the season.
“We had some injuries early in the game which depleted our front row,” said Uni-Norths coach Joe Hedger.
Hedger said that the final three rounds will still focus on getting on the winners list.
“The boys are still focused on getting a win, and they know that there’s been some signs this year that are giving every indication that that can be done,” he said.
“It really just comes down to executing a full 80 minutes and doing all the things that we know we can do right.”
Gungahlin Eagles 45 bt Uni-Norths Owls 5 at Nicholls Oval.
BYE: Queanbeyan Whites