Grand Final Wrap Up
John I Dent Cup: Canberra Royals 32 def Gungahlin Eagles 22
The Canberra Royals have been crowned back-to-back champions in the John I Dent Cup after an outstanding first-half cemented their win against the Gungahlin Eagles 33-22.
The tension in the air was thick as both sides felt the pressure of a grand final weighing on them and came out of the gate aggressive.
Royals were the first to act, being awarded a penalty that was converted by nonother than Pedro Rolando.
But the Eagles quickly retaliated, as the veteran Matt Giteau found young gun Tom Haddad for their first try of the game in the corner making it 3-7.
Persistence paid off for the Royals who had spent most of the beginning of the game at the Eagles line trying to breakthrough.
They eventually found their gap and were awarded a penalty try which brought them back into the game now leading 10-7.
The Royals quickly struck again in a three-part play, Will Burden broke the line passing off to Harry Quinlan who offloaded to Bayley Kuenzle to score.
The end of the first half had the Royals in a rhythm, while the Eagles struggled to gain some momentum trailing by eight points heading into the locker room.
Eagles struggle followed them into the second half, causing multiple mistakes and giving the ball away whenever they got close to the line.
Gungahlin supporters hearts broke after a full run try attempt from Jamie Kotz was waived off by the referees.
Another run from Kuenzle set us his teammates perfectly at the other end of the field, Rolando was the man to get the ball over the line, and after hitting his conversion the Royals were running away with it 22-7.
The Royals were not slowing down at all despite their lead, Rolando would gain another try straight after his previous score.
Jacob Helgesen would finally end the Eagles drought, getting over the line making a 29-12 game after a desperate Gungahlin effort.
A lob pass for Issak Fines found Isaac Crowe unguarded in the corner for another Gungahlin try, the Eagles were starting to build momentum but may have left it too late for a comeback.
Rolando effectively sealed the result with a penalty kick moments after, increasing the Royals lead to 32-17.
Even though the final whistle was closing in the Eagles would not give up, Corey Toole found a gap in the defence and brought his team within 10 points but to no avail.
Eagles coach Marco Caputo said that the Royals head-start was the killer and thinks that the game would’ve been different if some calls went their way.
“Two times we got held up over the line. On a different day, a different match official gives you those. There’s six tries there,” Caputo said.
“We just didn’t seem to get any of the 50-50s today, that was the difference.”
Royals coach Wayne Southwell knew that they were up against a strong backline in Gungahlin but said that the Brumbies players joining were the spark they needed.
“Having these guys in the last two or three weeks has just brought the energy at the right time when we needed it badly,” Southwell said.
“They were up against it that’s a classy backline and we knew it, these guys stepped up unbelievably, I’m really proud of them. It’s been a fantastic week and these guys have done a great job.”
Words: James Warr
ACT Womens’ Premier 15s: Uni-Norths Owls 12 def by Canberra Royals 15
The Canberra Royals have pulled off a stunning upset win over the Uni-North Owls in a thrilling encounter at Viking Park.
Owls started the strongest of the two sides, putting the Royals line under pressure with strong attacking play. Samantha Wood missed an early penalty to the left of the goal but would be handed the opportunity again minutes later.
Siokapesi Palu broke through out wide to open the scoring. Unfortunately, Wood wasn’t able to convert, leaving Owls with a five-point lead.
Royals hit back however, as the experienced Louise Burrows forced her way over the line from close range to score. Ashlea Bishop stepped up to convert, giving her side the lead.
This only served to wake up the Owls, as they once again put the Royals under immense pressure. They would score again, as Rosaline Aumale slipped through to score. Woods converted on this occasion, going back to a five point lead.
Despite keeping the Royals pinned in their own half for much of play, Owls struggled to capitalise on their dominance as errors proved costly. They had a less than desirable start to the second half, with Siokapesi Palu shown a yellow.
Royals used the advantage well, as Brooke Gilroy ran over in the corner uncontested to even the scoring.
Both sides seemed to struggle in the wet conditions with neither really able to make meaningful attacks despite multiple moments of danger both ways.
Best chance came when Ashlea Bishop slipped through a gap before going on a dangerous run down field. Luckily for Owls, their defence matched pace and stopped the threat in its tracks.
With both sides grinding their way through the half, it came down to a late penalty for Royals.
With time up and the game on the line, Bishop stepped up to calmly convert the kick, handing Royals a stunning upset win over a previously undefeated Uni-North Owls.
Royals coach, Darren Goodwin was confident when Bishop stepped up to the tee, saying her training set her up perfectly for the occasion.
“I was pretty confident because Ashlea Bishop will be the best kicker in the women’s game in Canberra,” said Goodwin.
“She had been winded a few minutes before, but she overcame it and knocked it over. She’s been doing so much practice off the field over the last few weeks and the occasion was set up for it.”
Despite saying Royals deserved the win on the day, Owls Coach Gregory Ritchie felt his side deserved more after an incredible season.
“The girls certainly didn’t deserve to lose a season like that given the way they’ve played this year. All credit to Royals, they stuck it to us today and deserved the win,” said Ritchie.
Good win praised his side for their culture, saying they all wants to be there and wanted the win.
“I get 22 girls, two times a week at training all year. They want to be here. They’re turning up because they want to turn up.
“They want to be part of the club and they want to be part of the team. It bodes well for women’s rugby in the ACT.”