The Canberra Vikings have climbed to first place on the NRC ladder ahead of the final game of the regular season, with a 35-22 win over the Greater Sydney Rams.
The Vikings already had a home semi-final confirmed, but will await the result of the Queensland Country-Perth match to see if they finish the regular season as minor premiers.
Canberra opened the scoring through scrumhalf Ryan Lonergan in the sixth minute, who with a juggling effort over the last few minutes finished off a passage that started with his line break a few phases earlier.
Greater Sydney enjoyed some early scrum ascendancy, and turned the Vikings' defensive scrum into an attacking opportunity after winning the penalty.
A couple of phases of pick-and-drive sucked in the Canberra defenders, allowing Rams flyhalf Mack Mason to make them pay with a pinpoint cross-kick.
The Rams were in again in the 23rd minute, with scrumhalf Dion Spice the last support in a nice movement that started with a loose ball being picked up back on halfway.
Rams skipper Jed Holloway’s offload for Spice will definitely feature in the highlight reels this week.
Mason converted from out wide, and then landed a 41m penalty in the 26th minute to push the Rams out to a 15-7 lead.
Len Ikitau crossed for Canberra only a minute or two later, only for the TMO to find he’d lost the ball in attempting to ground it.
The Vikings didn’t have to wait long though, with Lausii Taliauli breaking away from a turnover before finding skipper Tom Cusack to score in the 33rd minute, and Ben Johnston scored almost immediately, finishing off a turnover that began with a big Rob Valetini tackle.
The Rams in no time at all find themselves on wrong end of a 21-15 scoreline at halftime, and their situation worsened when winger Ben Cotton earned a yellow card for a dangerous tackle on Ikitau just before the break.
Canberra resumed the second half exactly where they left off, with Valetini again offloading nicely to send backrow partner Lolo Fakaosilea over in the 43rd minute. Lonergan’s fourth conversion made it 28-15, hardly the start to the half the Rams wanted.
Valetini crossed for a well-deserved try in the 53rd minute to push score out to 35-15, but the Vikings started losing a bit of fluidity and impact from their game as the hour mark passed. The Rams enjoyed some momentum from here, and a Dunbar break in midfield found Jed Holloway to score next to the posts, to bring the score back to 35-22.
Lonergan pushed a penalty goal attempt wide in the 74th minute, but it didn’t make a lot of difference with the intensity long departed from the contest as the steamy conditions took hold.
Greater Sydney Rams 22
Tries: Dunbar, Spice, Holloway
Cons: Mason, Ayoub
Yellow Cards: Cotton (38’)
Canberra Vikings 35
Tries: Lonergan, Cusack, Johnston, Fakaosilea, Valetini
Cons: Lonergan 5