TTM Canberra Raiders Cup: Round 3 Preview
Queanbeyan Blues (2) v Goulburn Workers Bulldogs (1) on Saturday at 3:00pm at Seiffert Oval
The highlight of Round 3 of the TTM Canberra Raiders Cup will undoubtedly be the Grand Final rematch between the Queanbeyan Blues and the Goulburn Workers Bulldogs.
Queanbeyan defeated Goulburn 24-20 in extra time last year to take out the 2014 title and as such, Blues Coach Simon Woolford is anticipating a fired up Goulburn outfit with revenge on their mind.
“It will be a great game or rugby league and no doubt one that people have been looking forward to,” Woolford said. “Goulburn will be out with a point to prove after last year’s Grand Final but what happened in 2014 isn’t really our focus, we’re concentrating on getting the points again in 2015!”
Queanbeyan and Goulburn have both hit the ground running in 2015 and as it stands are the only teams in the competition to remain undefeated after the opening two rounds.
Goulburn is currently ranked as the best attacking team in the competition, averaging 37 points per game, whilst both teams share the title as the best defensive team statistically with an average of 11 points conceded per game.
“They’ve started the season well and as have we,” Woolford said. “I’m happy with the way that we’ve started the year. There is still a long way to go due to the new players that we have in our team, but I’m happy with where we’re at.
“We’ll need to be on our game this week though. I’ve seen a bit of Goulburn this year and they look a lot stronger across the board. They look like they have a lot more strike on both sides of the field.
“Last year it seemed that if you stopped Mick Picker on the left side, then you’d do enough to win the game. This year though they’ve got more strike on the right it seems with centre Ben Marmont and young half [Nicholas] Cornish on the right. With more depth, they’re only going to get better.”
Woolford believes that defence will be the key to victory against a Bulldogs outfit featuring the creativity of hooker Ben Picker and brother Mick at five-eighth, along with former NRL flyer Michael Bani at fullback.
“If we can defend the way we know how, and the way that we’ve been practicing at training, then we’ll go a long way to winning the game. It won’t be easy by any means, but we’ll be up for the fight.”
Tuggeranong Bushrangers (8) v Queanbeyan Kangaroos (5) on Saturday at 3:00pm at Greenway
After a winless start to their 2015 campaign, the Tuggeranong Bushrangers will look to turn their fortunes around when they take on the Queanbeyan Kangaroos at home.
Tuggeranong put in a tenacious effort in the opening round to go down to Woden 20-16 however they were extremely disappointing the following week as they were beaten 38-0 by Goulburn.
That loss left Captain-Coach Michael Brophy feeling particularly disappointed and the Canberra Region representative will have his side strongly motivated for a reprieve against the Roos.
Queanbeyan lost their opening round to West Belconnen by 20 points, however they secured their first win of the year last week against Belconnen United.
The Bushrangers are always tough to beat at Greenway and they will need all the support in the stands that they can muster against the Aaron Gorrell-led Roos.
Gungahlin Bulls (4) v Woden Valley Rams (6) on Saturday at 3:00pm at Gungahlin Enclosed Oval
Gungahlin will be looking to register back-to-back wins in Round 3 after their thoroughly impressive 21-8 triumph over West Belconnen.
The combination between Bulls halfback Lincoln Withers and hooker James Ulrick was on fire against the Warriors and contributed to the majority of their tries.
Their performance did not go unnoticed by Woden Coach Ash Barnes and he has emphasised to his side the need to shut down their creativity as paramount importance.
“They’ve got a number of quality players in their team especially the former NRL players such as Lincoln Withers at halfback and David Howell in the centres,” Barnes said. “What really caught my eye in Round 2 though was the combination between Withers and James Ulrick at hooker.
“Withers is obviously a class player and Ulrick is very dangerous out of dummy half also so we need to watch their combination carefully otherwise they will cause our ruck defence some headaches.”
After a gritty win in the opening round over Tuggeranong, the Rams succumbed to the might of the Blues in Round 2, however Barnes remained positive after the loss to the defending premiers.
“I’m pretty happy with our start to the year,” he said. “We’ve been consistent and have been competing for the entire 80 minutes. We’ve improved every week and we’ll look to do that again this week against the Bulls.
“They’re hard to beat out there, it’s a great new facility and they will be looking to put on a show in front of their fans.”
Belconnen United Scholars (7) v West Belconnen Warriors (3) on Saturday at 3:00pm at O’Connor
Rounding out the games in Round 3 of the TTM Canberra Raiders Cup is the ‘Battle of Belconnen’ between the Scholars and the Warriors.
Despite being situated towards the bottom of the ladder and yet to record a win thus far, Belconnen United always lift when they face their local rivals.
The Scholars are a developing side with just two players retained from last year, but they have shown plenty of heart and club pride over the course of the opening two rounds.
West Belconnen started the year well, despite the season ending injury to star fullback Haydon Hodge, however they were extremely below par the following week against Gungahlin.
The Warriors’ ball handling and execution in attack was dismal against the Bulls and Coach Justin Giteau has no doubt focused on amending this during the week at training.