Vikings Take Uni In Epic Final

MatchReportVikings have come from behind to snatch a remarkable victory and a place in next week’s Grand Final with a 32 – 29 win over a shell shocked University side at Vikings Oval. Vikings looked to be going out of contention for this year’s crown when they trailed 20 – 29 with fifteen minutes of play remaining with the Bulls well in control and playing perfectly controlled finals football.

Vikings led 13 – 10 at the break and scored a converted try within minutes of the resumption to lead 20 – 10 before the Bulls mounted a huge comeback and looked set to qualify for the Grand Final. The Bulls scored three tries, and were held up over the Blueys line on two more occasions, as they set up a nine point lead in a dominant twenty four minute period of the second term. With Vikings looking down and out replacement forwards Simon Watts and Mathew Jones sparked a triumphant resurgence from the Blueys which enabled them to take the match and join both their lower grade sides on the big stage at WIN Stadium next week.

In a reversal of last week’s Minor Semi-Final between the Bulls and Bowral which ironically finished with the same score-line in Uni’s favour, the Bulls scored five tries to Vikings four but last week’s hero Tom Baker, who contributed seventeen points against Bowral, had an off day with the boot only able to kick two goals from five attempts. His Viking counterpart Tommy Sawden piloted over five from six and added a try as well in his seventeen point haul to help sink the Bulls chances.

The match was a typically hard fought Final as expected with both sides getting into stride from the early moments of the match in front of a very healthy crowd. University wingman Rueben Thompson had an eventful afternoon, crossing for the first try of the match after eight minutes. A prodigious clearing kick from Baker took play to within twenty metres of the Vikings line. From the lineout the Bulls won possession and with the ball being quickly moved across the Bulls backline Thompson opened the scoring in the north east corner.

A succession of penalties allowed Vikings to set up camp in the Uni half for an extended period but in a repeat of the strong defensive effort of last week the Bulls were able to repel all that the Blueys could throw at them. Vikings settled for a penalty goal after sixteen minutes to reduce the lead to two. From the restart Thompson was in the action again when he tackled a Vikings player in the air from the kick and was penalised. The penalty allowed the Blueys to take play deep into Uni territory where once again the defence held solid. Sawden added his second penalty goal for Vikings to take the lead for the first time at 6 – 5.

From the restart Thompson again misjudged his tackle on the player taking the ball from the kick off and was yellow carded for his troubles. Vikings soon made the Bulls pay when winger Cheyne Pike took full advantage of the extra space to finish off a standard backline raid to score Vikings first try. With Sawden converting, Vikings led 13 – 5 after twenty five minutes.

The Bulls other winger Sam Latu was prominent in a series of plays which took the Bulls into a scoring position. Latu contributed with several runs during a series of strong phases of University attack. Fullback Simon Douch crossed for a try from a well-timed cut out pass from Baker to get Uni back within three of the lead. Thompson re-joined the match shortly after the restart but after chasing a kick into Vikings quarter he suffered a serious knee injury when changing direction and left the field, taking no further part in the match.

After enjoying a 13 – 10 lead at the break, Vikings extended the lead within minutes of the restart when Fly-half Jason Reid showed all his blistering pace to score, after the Vikings forwards led by Lock Cody Roman dominated the early minutes of the half. Another conversion to Sawden had Vikings leading by 20 – 10 after forty five minutes.

As a run of penalties went the Bulls way, Uni began a twenty minute period in which they showed all their Finals experience systematically taking control of the match. In form No.8 Damien Mei was held up over the Vikings line shortly before big second rower William Wood scored a pick and drive try after three phases of well controlled play from the Bulls.

Fullback Simon Douch produced a spectacular effort to register the next try from fifty out. An ill-advised kick from Vikings, conceding possession to the Bulls fell to Douch just inside his own half. Douch decided to run the ball and put in a short kick over the first line of defence. He swiftly regained the ball on the Vikings quarter and sprinted away to score an outstanding try for the Bulls to go in front by 22 – 20.

The Bulls showed great composure putting the Vikings defence under extreme pressure for an extended period before prop Casey Rameka broke into the Blueys in goal but couldn’t ground the ball. Another series of pick and drive plays eventually saw skipper Paul Tuala power over for the Bulls to extend the lead to 29 – 20 with Baker managing to convert two of the tries.

Just as Vikings supporters were fearing the worst the injection of Simon Watts and later Matthew Jones sparked a Vikings resurgence. With Player of the Match Cody Roman continuing to inspire the players around him Vikings raised another effort as all the players were starting to show signs of tiring. Despite taking a couple of heavy knocks Blueys smart halfback Tommy Sawden breathed hope into the Vikings camp when he forced his way over from the edge of a ruck to get the Blueys within four of the lead at 25 - 29.

With less than five minutes left on the clock and after Uni had conceded a sequence of penalties in the Vikings quarter, Referee Ethan McIntosh showed the Bulls Tom Baker a Yellow Card for repeated infringements. This led to another extra effort from Vikings leading to a rampaging Joel Diggins crossing in front of the clubhouse for the winning converted try in the dying moments of the match.

It was a gruelling hard fought match with both sets of forwards working themselves to a stand-still with the injection of the Vikings bench proving to have a decisive influence on the match. Vikings Lock Cody Roman who was just as effective in both attack and defence was well supported by Joel Diggins and No.8 Joshua Heggie who all played the full eighty minutes. Halves Tommy Sawden and Jason Reid were instrumental in much of what the Blues did in attack, with centre Luke Bertram contributing many strong runs.

University were once again superbly led by Captain Paul Tuala bringing all his experience and leadership to the match. Lock William Wood and No.8 Damien Mei produced strong performance for the second week running as the Uni forwards took the match right up to their opponents. In the backs Sam Latu, Tom Baker, George Rixon and Simon Douch contributed plenty in a whole hearted effort from last year’s Premiers.

Vikings have now qualified all three grades for next week’s Grand Finals in what is their sixtieth Anniversary year. The deserving Minor Premiers and competition favourites Avondale now stand between Vikings and their fourteenth IDRU First Grade title, which would be a fitting celebration for the districts oldest Rugby Club. The Wombats are going to have plenty to say next week in that regard as they seek to complete a perfect season of twenty wins from twenty matches.

Vikings 32 (Cheyne Pike 1 try, Jason Reid 1 try, Joel Diggins 1 try, Tommy Sawden 1 try, 3 goals, 2 penalty goals)

Def University 29 (Simon Douch 2 tries, Reuben Thompson 1 try, William Wood 1 try, Paul Tuala 1 try, Tom Baker 2 goals)

Lower Grade Results

Second Grade

Bowral 28 Def Camden 15

Third Grade

Vikings 21 Def Avondale 19

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