Vikings snatch thriller over Spirit

by Brett McKay

A second half Perth Spirit fightback was killed off by two late Canberra Vikings tries, allowing the home side to take the points in Canberra.

The Vikings kept up their unbeaten start to the 2017 National Rugby Championship, and they’re two-from-two at Viking Park this season, too, with centre Andrew Robinson sealing the win in the 78th minute.

Perth Spirit will take a losing bonus point away from the nation’s capital, though they will be mainly ruing the one that got away on the flight home.

Hooker Robbie Abel opened the scoring for Canberra, steering the go-to Vikings’ lineout driving maul over on the second attempt. Wharenui Hawera’s conversion made it 7-0 after eight minutes of play, in which the Spirit had spent the whole time defending.

Isi Naisarani scored a try for the Spirit. Photo: Getty ImagesIt was all Canberra in the first quarter of the game, adding scrum ascendency to their effective lineout work too, and they ignored the posts in favour of kicking for the corner. Perth were able to upset a lineout throw and prevent another Vikings maul setting up, but a patient pick and drive saw very promising young no.8 Rob Valetini barge over in the corner from close range.

It was nearly 25 minutes before Perth had a proper chance to attack, and though they also couldn’t get a lineout drive going, some wonderful hands in midfield found Chance Peni in a bit of space and bound for the corner.

They looked to go on with it, too, the Spirit, with rampaging no.8 Isi Naisarani only prevented from scoring by the desperation of Vikings fullback Tom Banks, and centre Sheldon Tarawa was bundled into touch just before the corner only a minute later.

Valetini had a double late in the first half, with a lovely inside ball tapped down to him from Vikings centre Andrew Robinson sending the no.8 over out wide.

Hawera’s superb curling conversion put Canberra out to a 17-5 halftime lead.

Perth hit back after the break, with front rower Pek Cowan sliding a nice ball for hooker Anaru Rangi to barge over, bouncing off the upright to score. Jono Lance’s conversion from in front brought the margin back to just five.

Flanker Kane Koteka then barged over himself in the 54th minute, with which Lance’s conversion saw the scores all locked up.

Royals skipper Ben Johnston brings club experience to NRC. Photo: Getty ImagesThe Vikings’ grip on the game was further loosened only a minute later, when winger Ben Johnston was shown a yellow card.

Naisarani was having another huge game for the Spirit, and he couldn’t be stopped from close range, picking up the ball from the back of a 5m scrum and busting his way through Vikings’ backs for fun as he barged over.

Lance’s conversion gave Perth the lead for the first time, as the momentum has swung completely in their favour.

But as soon as Perth had the lead, they lost it again, with Vikings prop Harry Lloyd pushing his way over on the pick and drive, and Hawera’s conversion levelling the scores again with ten minutes to go.

From there, it was the proverbial grandstand finish, and after a big carry from Brumbies skipper Sam Carter, James Dargaville found centre partner Robinson in support and he raced away to score under the posts and secure the win.


Vikings 33

Tries: Valetini 2, Abel, Lloyd, Robinson

Cons: W. Hawera 4

Yellow Cards: Johnston (56’)

Spirit 26

Tries: Peni, Rangi, Koteka, Naisarani

Cons: Lance 3