Royals complete perfect John I Dent Cup season

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Royals have completed the perfect season, edging out a gritty Lions side 28-12 in the John I Dent Cup final on Saturday.

The star-studded Royals side worked their way into the match, never enjoying total dominance but making the most of their chances when they presented, with some silky finishing from their outside backs.

Wests had the better of the attacking momentum early and a powerful scrum, even without suspended tighthead Ben Coutts,  gave them the first chance at points.

Both sides had chances to convert in the first half but Nick Jooste and usually reliable Pedro Rolando both missed from generally straightforward positions.

Royals winger Ben Johnston looked certain of a try after an opportunistic kick chase but the speedster was taken down by centre Brodie Leber and a knock on snuffed out that scoring chance.

Johnston’s was far from the only missed chance for minor premiers Royals, who made uncharacteristic fumbles across the park in the opening stanza.

Rolando gave Royals the first score in the 25th minute, from a far more difficult spot than his first attempt, but there was no floodgate opened after that in a tense encounter.

Wests backed themselves but a mistimed pass robbed them of the chance for a first try, after a super run from Macdougall Medallist Bruce Kaino.

The Lions’ first half advantage paid off with Chris Ashmore finishing off an impressive attacking chain to snatch the lead for the Lions in the 36th minute.

Sam Carter has full faith in the Brumbies' future. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyBrumbies co-captain Sam Carter was injected into the game for Royals before the break, his first club outing since 2012, as they attempted to swing back the momentum.

Rolando’s second put the favourites back on top at the break and Jason Swain gave them the perfect start to the second half, with a try.

As the game ticked on, it was Royals that grew with confidence, winning a crucial tighthead and showing the desperation to keep the ball alive that has made them so dangerous in 2017.

Rolando’s third penalty gave Royals an 11-point buffer, as they tightened the screws on their less-fancied opponents, before Tom Cusack fittingly had the final say, after leading the way in the competition all year, capping off another stellar outing.

The Lions were hit with an injury blow, as centre Jooste was forced off with a shoulder injury.

Johnston gave Royals the chance to savour an historic season with a final try, lighting up the crowd in the dying moments, before a last-gasp Wests try for winger Juniot Luteru gave them small consolation with which to finish their season.

Wests fought hard in Canberra. Photo: Brumbies Rugby FacebookCusack said the final showed what rugby meant to the local area.

"You can just see back here, the amount of the communtit that gets around it," he said.

"It means a lot to a lot of poeple. Rugby competes with a lot of other sports in Australia, unlike places like New Zealand and you need the communtiy base, you need the supporter base to boost the culture.

"Opportunities like this, games like this, moments like this bring people back and playing an expansive style has brought the Royals community a lot closer."

Wests skipper Harry Lloyd said he was proud of his side, despite being run down by the Royals late.

"We knew they'd come out hard and we wanted to absorb that pressure," he said.

"We did incredibly well, couldn’t be proud of that 405-50 mintus but they just got on top of us at the end there."

RESULT

Royals 28

Tries: Swain, Cusack, Johnston

Cons: Rolando 2

Pens: Rolando 3

Wests 12

Tries: Ashmore, Luteru

Cons: Astle

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