TTM Canberra Raiders Cup - Round 8 Preview

Gungahlin Bulls (2) v Queanbeyan Blues (1) on Saturday at 3:00pm at Gungahlin Enclosed Oval

Round 16 of the TTM Canberra Raiders Cup will see a top of the table clash between the Queanbeyan Blues and the Gungahlin Bulls, which will undoubtedly be the highlight of this week’s fixtures.

As many predicted at the season launch, the Blues have proven to be the team to beat in 2015. As it stands, the defending premiers are undefeated at the halfway mark of the season and are statistically the best attacking and defensive team in the competition.

“We’re sitting well at the moment, we’re happy with how we've gone in the first round of the competition,” Blues winger Craig Wilkinson said. “Every week is a new challenge though and we have to get ready for the next seven rounds and that starts with Gungahlin this Saturday which will be a tough game.

“After going down to Goulburn on Tuesday they will definitely be up for this match, especially at their home ground.”

Under the guidance of Raiders trio Lincoln Withers, David Howell and Troy Thompson, Gungahlin has emerged as the surprise packet of the 2015 season, with their five match winning streak coming to a halt just last Tuesday night at the hands of last year’s Grand Finalists the Goulburn Workers Bulldogs.

Prior to that, Gungahlin’s last defeat was in Round 1, when they went down 34-12 to the Blues.

“This week is really going to test us,” Gungahlin centre David Howell said. “We had a tough game on Tuesday night against Goulburn and we’re expecting another tough one on Saturday against the Blues.

Unfortunately Howell has been sidelined with injury for this clash with a Grade 2 medial ligament strain. The absence of the former NRL flyer will leave a massive hole in Gungahlin’s outside backs and rob fans of a mouth-watering individual clash with Queanbeyan speedster Tom Ruediger.

Ruediger, a Canberra Region representative, scored four tries in the first half in the 56-10 victory over the Scholars in Round 7, before being rested for the second half.

“They’ve got some really good outside backs and that’s probably their strength,” the former Raiders centre said. “Tom is going to test us along with their other outside backs because not only are they talented players, but we are also down on troops in that department.”

Queanbeyan Kangaroos (4) v West Belconnen Warriors (6) on Saturday at 3:00pm at Freebody Oval

The Queanbeyan Kangaroos will be looking to retain their spot in the top four and extract revenge for their Round 1 defeat by West Belconnen when the two sides face off again on Saturday afternoon.

After an inconsistent start to the year, the Roos have ascended to fourth place on the ladder after consecutive victories over Goulburn and Woden.

West Belconnen too returned to the winner’s circle last weekend against Tuggeranong after losing three matches in a row which saw them slump to sixth place on the ladder.

If the Warriors are to make a charge to the finals in the second half of the season it must start now as they cannot afford to lose pace with the other contenders.

West Belconnen dominated their initial clash in Round 1 this year defeating Queanbeyan 36-16 and the Warriors will look to replicate that showing this Saturday on the Roos’ turf.

Woden Valley Rams (5) v Tuggeranong Bushrangers (7) on Sunday at 3:00pm at Phillip District Oval

Tuggeranong will be looking to avoid their fourth straight defeat when they travel to Phillip District oval to tackle local rivals, the Woden Valley Rams.

The Bushrangers have had an unfortunate year thus far but are likely to lift for the clash with their neighbours just as they did in Round 1.

In a tightly fought encounter, the Rams managed to walk away with a narrow 20-16 victory at Greenway.

“It was a grinding game which went from end to end and I’m really proud of the way that the boys never gave up throughout the entire eighty minutes,” Woden Coach Ash Barnes said of their initial clash.

“That would have been a game that we would have probably lost last year, so I was really pleased with our commitment and resolve. We will need a similar effort this weekend.”

Goulburn Workers Bulldogs (3) v Belconnen United Scholars (8) on Sunday at 3:00pm at Goulburn Workers Arena

Life doesn’t get any easier for Belconnen United.

In three consecutive weeks the Scholars have faced all three of the top sides in the TTM Canberra Raiders Cup, and both of last year’s Grand Finalists in back-to-back weeks.

And unfortunately, the luckless Scholars have not handled the challenges well at all, losing 60-4 to the Bulls and 56-10 to the Blues.

Giving Belconnen United confidence going into their clash with Goulburn should be how well they performed in Round 1 against the Bulldogs. They still lost 36-22 but the Bulldogs didn’t do it easily by any means.

What should worry the Scholars however is the return to form that Goulburn displayed on Tuesday night which coincided with ending Gungahlin’s five match winning streak.

Goulburn Captain-Coach Mick Picker starred at five-eighth in the win over the Bulls scoring a hat-trick of tries. He will no doubt need to be closely monitored by a Belconnen United defensive structure which has leaked the most points in the competition.