The Gungahlin Eagles pulled off a classic win to start their John I Dent Cup season after beating the defending champions after 80 minutes of play.
A man down in the final 20 minutes, Gungahlin came from behind to put away the Tuggeranong Vikings after the 80 minutes had expired, the match going a bit longer while the visitors kept progressing up the field.
It was the Northside men who got the first points on the board with a penalty kick courtesy of Wharenui Hawera in the opening minutes of the match.The Vikings didn't seem to have control but put the first try across the line for the day with Ernest Suivai going over in the 15th minutes, though Ryan Lonergan couldn't add another two points.
A response from the Eagles came shortly after despite being a man down, Jahrome Brown giving them their first try and Hawera's kick made it two for two, leading 5-10.Capitalising on their momentum, they again struck before the end of the first half when Brendan Tauaki got through on the left wing.
Hawera missed his first conversion of the day, as the visitors led into the sheds 5-15.Going into the second half down on their opponents, the Vikings came bursting out of the blocks in the final 40 minutes, putting pressure on the Eagles.
Lonergan scored the first Vikings try of the second half, going half the length of the field to put five points on the board, adding to that by converting his own try to narrow the gap to 12-15.
Only 15 minutes into the second half the Eagles lost a man on the ground after Matt Hawke was given a red card for punching, leaving his side down with a slender lead.It didn't take long for the Vikings to capitalise, Michael Oakman-Hunt scoring under a minute later and putting the home side in front with Lonergan's kick making it 19-15.
A string of late tries tightened up the match, first being scored by the Eagles' Joel Atkins who put his side in front 19-22 after another successful Hawera conversion.
The Vikings responded with just over five minutes to go, Darcy Swain putting them back on top and Lonergan's conversion made the score 25-22 with under 4 minutes on the clock.
As the clock turned to zero, the Eagles had a scrum feed and progressively made their way towards the Vikings line, aided by a late opportunity to feed the line-out.
A successful line-out for Gungahlin led to a maul, pushing their way over the line despite being a man down and sealing the match in a last gasp thriller. Hawera's conversion added salt to the Vikings wounds with the final score of 26-29.
The come from behind victory will go down as a classic in the premier competition as Gungahlin will go into their next match with the knowledge that they can beat the defending champions even with a man down.
Words: Jordan Mulach