A double to Vikings hooker Connal McInerney helped secure the Canberra side an important 31-21 victory over the Melbourne Rising.
On an icy night in the nation's capital, a grinding win by the home side saw the Vikings come from behind in the last quarter to roll over the top of the Rising.
The victory effectively secured the Vikings a spot in the playoffs and, on the other side of the equation, all-but ended the Rising's hopes of playing finals.
The Rising led 14-0 early but the Vikings worked their way back to the lead, and continuing the trend of Canberra scoring tries through their hooker, at the end of a powerful rolling maul, McInerney grabbed a pair of crucial tries in the second half.
The no.2's double sealing the win and making up for the fact he'd been sin-binned earlier.
The Vikings were down to 13 men at one point, even. But they somehow kept up their attack and the Rising couldn't make the most of their advantage.
The Rising captured their first try after 17 phases of continued pressure which saw Anaru Rangi drive over the line, and Archie King converted.
The early lead and strong defence on their own line allowed Melbourne’s confidence in attack to build, and soon after Sione Tuipulotu ran a tight line to score at the base of the posts from a 5 metre scrum.
King made no mistake with the conversion and the score favoured to the Rising 14-0 within the first 30 minutes.
The Vikings made a slow start in the first half but eventually began to build pressure. But however they were relentless in attack, they were held up on the try line again and again.
Finally Darcy Swain grabbed Canberra’s first try of the night and his first NRC try, powering over the line after brilliant phase work from the forward pack.
A brilliant piece of play from the Vikings saw Lausii Taliauli stride down the sideline, grubber towards the try line, a chasing Joe Powell was unable to regather.
A minute later the Vikings were awarded a penalty try, which led to Anaru Rangi being sin binned just before the half, locking the scores up 14-14 at the half time buzzer.
Coming into the second half Canberra were looking to capitalise on their one-man advantage, but it was Melbourne that kept their cool.
Tuipulotu laid down the law with some heavy hits and forced Canberra into errors.
McInerney was binned by referee Angus Gardner for slowing the play down and Canberra’s front rower had not even returned to the field when a second sin bin for a deliberate knock down by Taliauli, resulted in the second penalty try of the game.
Melbourne were now up 21- 14 and Canberra were down to 13 men for 2 minutes.
Many teams in this situation would be on the defensive but Canberra’s Len Ikitau was able to brilliantly capitalise on a drop ball by Melbourne’s half back Michael Ruru and score in the corner.
Canberra trailed 19-21 as Hawera’s kick hit the post but McInerney made up for his 10 minute stint in the bin by snagging two tries in the last 15 minutes of the game, both off rolling mauls, to finish over the top of the Rising and run out 31-21 winners.
Captain Ben Hyne summed up Canberra’s game perfectly in a post match interview, saying: “It took the whole 80 minutes to grind out that win”.
Canberra Vikings 31
Tries: McInerney 2, Swain, Penalty, Ikitau
Cons: Hawera, Lonergan
Melbourne Rising 21
Tries: Rangi, Tuipoulotu, Penalty
Cons: King 2