The Tuggeranong Vikings will play in their third consecutive grand final after nudging out the Canberra Royals in the major semi-final 14-13 at Viking Park on Saturday.
In what was always tipped to be the major semi-final, the game virtually stood as a grand final preview, and was always going to be a cracker.
The Vikings and Royals have developed a bone-crunching rivalry in 2013 which had seen two contests typical to that of one versus two in the competition.
Episode one of the rivalry saw the Vikings take a great defensive showing 17-13 while they were upset in episode two, suffering their first loss of the season 38-36 at home.
Despite the win Vikings coach Brad Harris was not happy with his men’s execution.
“We’ve got a week off, and we’ve got a fair bit of work to do before we play in two weeks,” he said.
Harris said he was aware whoever his side faces in the grand final will try to arm wrestle them to wear them down.
“That’s something we probably face week to week. We’ve just got to be better with that with our own attack and our own areas that we focus on,” he said.
He will give the team a week off to refresh before hitting the training paddock again.
Defensive holes were far and few between at the start of the of the game, meaning the accuracy of two of the competition’s sharp shooters was going to be important.
Veteran Craig McMahon got his side an early 3-0 lead before Vikings front rower Sione Taula was yellow carded for a reckless high shot.
But in what could be considered a ‘boring’ first half, the Vikings squeezed a 6-3 lead with both sides having missed key penalty goal attempts.
In a four minute period that would have disgusted Royals coach Russell Ingram, the Vikings scored a crucial try right on half time after Royals front rower Jay Cash was yellow carded for a professional ruck infringement.
The second half was played out much the same, with both sides seeing nothing but early penalty goals a piece.
Trailing 14-6 the Royals had to find a try somewhere, and almost did from 60 metres out when winger Liam Clark charged over the top of his opposite number before finding Tio Tai in support.
They kept persisting, and with 18 minutes to go, skipper Joel Penders bulldozed his way over the line to bring his men within a point in very due time.
Tensions rose in the last 10 minutes as a grandstand finish built, and a try-saving effort from clark at the corner post stopped the Vikings from taking the game.
Hard hitting meant more frequent player substitutions while there was some push and shove as well.
The Vikings eventually held on for the one point win which sees them have a week off in preparation for the grand final.
Ingram lamented his side’s decisions in the game and said the pressure applied by the Vikings affected that.
“We just need to play better territory and control the footy,” he said.
The Royals have two injury concerns heading into next week’s preliminary final against the winner of tomorrow’s Wests Lions v Queanbeyan Whites minor semi-final.
Today sees the Queanbeyan Whites tackle the Wests Lions in minor semi-final action.
Tuggeranong Vikings 14 (Mokotupu try; Holmes 3 pens) bt Canberra Royals 13 (Penders try; McMahon con; 2 pens) at Viking Park.