Brisbane City have ended the Canberra Vikings’ unbeaten start to the National Rugby Championship, with their thrilling 42-40 win at the University of Queensland on Sunday.
The Vikings’ losing bonus point will keep them in the NRC top four after Round Three, but that will be cold comfort after handling errors throughout, and again late in the game killed off any chance of a miraculous win.
Vikings’ flyhalf Wharenui Hawera’s one missed conversion would prove the only difference between the sides, with City No. 10 maintaining a perfect record from the tee.
The Vikings went to the set play book early in the game, trying a short lineout throw to scrumhalf Joe Powell in the opening minutes, and then putting it through the hands from clean scrum ball in the 7th minute, putting winger Ben Johnston into space to score in the corner.
Brisbane City lock Lukhan Tui was in everything early, obviously looking for a big game to help his Wallabies touring chances, and he levelled the scores in the 14th minute after he crashed over on the pick and drive.
Quade Cooper was making a huge difference to the City attack, as you’d expect of player of his experience and class, while the Vikings were helping him by just holding back on him whenever he had the ball.
They held back on AJ Alatimu in the 19th minute, too, scoring under the posts without a hand laid on him following on from an Ed Fidow break earlier, and on their next raid into the Vikings’ 22, loosehead prop Tonga Ma’afu was unstoppable from a metre out. With Cooper’s third conversion, City suddenly led 21-7.
It was the turn of the Vikings to rip out the highlights next, with a wonderful midfield break from outside centre Andrew Robinson finding young no.8 Rob Valetini steaming up through middle, before James Dargaville dotted it down besides the posts.
Then it was fullback Banks under the posts for Canberra, after tighthead prop Les Leulua'iali'i-Makin making the kind of thirty-metre midfield bust that props love, and showing some great skills to draw and pass to find Banks in support. Hawera’s conversion levelled the scores.
City found the tryline again after the halftime siren, with No.8 Michael Richards scoring from the back of the scrum. It was sheer power from City, controlling the hit, winning the second shove and moving forward, allowing Richards to pick up and take the halftime lead.
Canberra locked things up yet again straight after the break, with Banks running off Robbie Abel’s inside ball while the City defence let the Vikings hooker have free reign at first receiver. But City flyer Ed Fidow just reminded everyone that Banks isn’t alone in the speed game, making huge run down the left edge before sending Alatimu over for his second.
Powell crossed next for the Vikings, but Hawera’s first miss of the day from out wide left Canberra trailing by two heading into the last quarter, but then Andrew Ready piloted the City lineout drive over to push the home side ahead 42-33.
A Kane Douglas yellow card, followed by a second try to Dargaville set up the grandstand finish, but the Vikings lost control of the ball on the last chance at attack, and City prevailed for the second win of the season.
BRISBANE CITY 42
Tries: Alatimu 2, Tui, Ma’afu, Richards, Ready
Cons: Cooper 6
Yellow Cards: Douglas (76’)
Canberra Vikings 40
Tries: Banks 2, Dargaville 2, Johnston, Powell
Cons: Hawera 4, Lonergan 1