NRC: Vikings vault into finals with gritty win

NRC
by Sam Phillips

The Canberra Vikings have put in an enormous defensive shift to earn an NRC finals berth, eliminating Brisbane City in the process.

The 13-10 win was in as dire conditions as one would see in modern rugby.

The constant, driving rain did not relent on Sunday and Bottomley Park was closer to a mud pit than a rugby field as a result.

The match was riddled with handling errors result but the intensity and size of the hits put on were subsequently kicked up a notch.

Potential Wallabies bolter Rob Valetini was responsible for several of those hits.

He looks to be in top physical knick and was instrumental in the Canberra go forward which proved decisive.

Two other Canberra players caught the eye.Quade Cooper controlled had some brilliant moments. Photo: Getty ImagesOutside centre Len Ikitau - who scored the visitors' only try in the 12th minute - was enormous.

He quelled the impact hard running City centres Matt Gordon and Tautalatasi Tasi had in midfield and ran some superb lines outside flyhalf Wharenui Hawera.

Recent Wallabies debutant Tom Banks was also outstanding.

He split the City line and put Ikitau over in the first half and didn't let the conditions disrupt his game.

City's chief weapon was its scrum.

They folded Canberra time after time and eventually forced referee Damon Murphy to send Thomas Ross to the sin bin with the game in the balance in the 63rd minute but couldn't turn their pressure into points.

It took 32 minutes for the home side to break their duck but they did it through some sharp work from Quade Cooper.Andy Muirhead and the Vikings toughed it out. Photo: Getty ImagesThe star flyhalf caught Canberra napping with a quick tap five out from their line, beating the scrambling defence into the left hand corner to score.

Cooper was good without being great, his sharp kicking in play let down by two missed conversions which would have won his side the match.

Hawera, in contrast, was perfect off the tee.

City's other five points came from a Brandon Paenga-Amosa pick and drive with 25 minutes to play.

That set up a grandstand finish and City had several raids deep into Canberra territory but were unable to power over the top fo the Vikings pack.

It refused to fold under duress and was the decisive factor in the second half.

Canberra's reward for the tough as nails win?

A trip to Fiji to face the Drua in an NRC semi final.