The Horan-Little Shield will remain in the Nation’s Capital another week, after the University of Canberra Vikings held on to beat the Western Sydney Rams.
The weather gods were nearly the winners on the day with persistent rain allowing only five tries for the match, and Vikings’ replacement hooker Connal McInerney’s 70th minute try the only second half points in the 22-16 win at Viking Park in Canberra.
It was nearly twenty minutes before any points were scored in the game, when Rams centre Apolosi Latunipulu crossed to the left of the uprights from a scrum set play. Western Sydney Captain Paul Asquith converted for an 8-0 lead.
Both teams were guilty of conceding penalties in attacking territory throughout the first half, and combined with the at times heavy rain made possession difficult.
The Vikings were the next to score, when Lausii Taliauli crossed in the corner after a clever little bat-on from young centre Jordan Jackson-Hope, but this was cancelled out just minutes later when Rams lock Senio Toleafoa barged over.
Canberra finally had some success with their driving maul on the stroke of halftime, when prop Sione Taula scored after the maul had travelled almost ten metres. Nick Jooste’s conversion sent the teams to the break with Western Sydney leading 16-14.
After the break, it was the Rams applying the early pressure, but the conditions made even just simple catch-and-pass rugby difficult. Lineouts were becoming a lottery, as turnovers began dominating the play for both sides.
It was more than half an hour into the second half until the next points, as both teams looked to break through, but it was the Vikings who hit the lead when McInerney piloted a strong lineout drive to the try line.
Canberra remained in control for the final stages, with the long kicking game of Nick Jooste helping them play the game down in the Rams half and close out the win.
Referee Amy Perrett created yet more history, this time as the first female to control a National Rugby Championship game, following on from good performances as an assistant referee at both NRC and Super Rugby level in 2016.
UNIVERSITY OF CANBERRA VIKINGS 22
Tries: L. Taliauli, S. Taula, Co. McInerney
Cons: N. Jooste 2/3
WESTERN SYDNEY RAMS 16
Tries: A. Latunipulu, S. Toleafoa
Cons: P. Asquith 2/2