TTM Canberra Raiders Cup: Round 9 Preview

Belconnen United Scholars (8) v Queanbeyan Kangaroos (4) on Saturday at 3:00pm at O’Connor

A lot has changed since these two sides met in the 2012 TTM Canberra Raiders Cup Grand Final.

On that day, the Belconnen United ruined the Queanbeyan Kangaroos’ attempt at a third consecutive premiership with the Scholars’ spoiling the milestone with a 38-26 victory at Seiffert Oval.

Today however, the Scholars playing list is barely recognisable to that roster save for a few such as the side’s Captain Mitch Shaw. Despite what is a rebuilding phase for the club, the Scholars have been bitterly disappointing in 2015. They are yet to win a game and are statistically ranked as the worst defensive team in the competition, conceding a disastrous average of 43 points per game.

The Roos line-up of 2015 is too vastly different to the line-up of 2012, however there are most certainly more familiar faces in their line-up than that of the Scholars. Queanbeyan is still fortunate enough to have the leadership and guidance of Captain-Coach Aaron Gorrell and the dynamic attacking spark of Jordan Macey who has returned from a stint of playing in America.

“We’ve lost nine players from last year’s squad but we’re lucky to have Mace back now,” Roos Assistant Coach Jack Giddings said. “He’s been a great influence since he’s been back and you can see the smiles on everybody’s faces now that he’s back. He’s a good trainer, a good club man and he’s just got that X factor about him as he showed last year by winning the McIntyre Medal.”

Whilst the Scholars are down on confidence, they will no doubt lift for this contest given the recent rivalry between the two sides.

“This is only my second year at the club after moving down from Dubbo but I’ve heard about the rivalry between the two clubs,” said Scholars second-rower Elijah Dries. “We haven’t had the best year so far but we’re only a young squad and have been improving as the year has gone on. The club is in a rebuilding phase but morale has still been positive.

“A win over the Roos would be great. It would provide the team with a spike in confidence and from there we can hopefully string a few more wins together.”

In Round 2 this year, the scores were fairly level with the Roos prevailing winners 38-28 at home.

Currently situated in fourth place on the ladder a win is vital for the Roos to remain in the top four with Woden, who are just two points below on the ladder in fifth place, nipping at their heels. If Queanbeyan is to win, it will be their fourth win in a row.

“It’s been a pretty slow start to the year but we’re building and getting better at the right time of the year,” Giddings said. “We’re hopeful that we can hold onto our top four spot and to do that we can’t take the Scholars lightly because it was a tight game back in Round 2.”

Queanbeyan Blues (1) v Woden Valley Rams (5) on Saturday at 3:00pm at Seiffert Oval

Despite the fact that the Queanbeyan Blues are undefeated after eight rounds and boast the best offensive and defensive records in the competition, Woden Coach Ash Barnes is heading into the clash with plenty of optimism following a promising month of form.

The Rams are just two points outside of the top four after winning three out of their past four games and Barnes believes that the side has the self-belief and talent to be the first team this season to topple the Blues, although he concedes that it won’t be easy.

"There is a lot of belief amongst our team," Barnes said. "Over the first half of the season the boys have shown they can compete with the best teams in the competition and if we play to our potential I think we can really challenge the Blues." 

"They are a quality team right across the park, so we need to really focus on our defence and working together to shut them down. We are really looking to focus on our own game and improving on areas we have identified.

“They only beat us 24-10 in Round 2 and we’re a far better side than that now. It should be a good game.”

Back in Round 2, Woden’s failure to capitalise on attacking opportunities was what let them down.

“Our attacking execution let us down at times, we had some opportunities on their line and couldn’t execute,” Barnes said. “It was a high quality game in tough conditions, we just let ourselves down in key moments with a couple of decisions that we made and the Blues really made us pay for those. Despite that, we really showed up and really competed with a high quality side, probably the best side in the competition and pushed them for 80 minutes.”

Assisting the Rams execution of late has been the form of fullback Jordan Martin, the son of former premiership winning Raiders winger Paul.

Martin scored four tries to guide the Rams to victory last week over the Bushrangers in a Man of the Match display and his penetrating runs will again be needed by Woden this Saturday.

"Jordan has been good over the past couple of years for us and has really enjoyed the move to fullback this year," Banes said. "He has been getting better every week and is looking to continue his form this Saturday."

Tuggeranong Bushrangers (7) v Goulburn Workers Bulldogs (2) on Sunday at 3:00pm at Greenway

Goulburn will be looking to consolidate their spot at second place on the ladder and build on their impressive form when they travel south to Greenway to take on Tuggeranong on Sunday afternoon.

After falling to the Queanbeyan Roos in Round 6, the Bulldogs have since recovered and are now on track to register their third win in a row.

Goulburn thrashed Tuggeranong 38-0 in Round 2 and unfortunately for the Bushrangers, things haven’t really improved.

Tuggeranong has only registered one match this year, against the cellar dwelling Scholars.

The Bushrangers will need to keep a close eye on Bulldogs flyer Tim Turner who has been in terrific form of late. In last week’s victory over the Scholars, the Goulburn winger touched down for a hat-trick of tries.

West Belconnen Warriors (6) v Gungahlin Bulls (3) on Sunday at 3:00pm at Raiders Belconnen

After back-to-back losses to both of the combatants from the 2014 TTM Canberra Raiders Cup Grand Final, the Gungahlin Bulls will look to re-join the winner’s circle when they confront the West Belconnen Warriors on Sunday afternoon.

Prior to the consecutive losses, the Bulls were on an absolute roll registering five wins on the trot.

The two losses have seen Gungahlin drop from second place on the ladder to third, although they are on the same number of competition points as the fourth placed Roos.

West Belconnen are still a mathematical chance of making the semi-finals, however it is imperative that they start their charge as soon as possible as they are now four points out of the top four.

Assisting the Warriors in their charge to the finals is the return of damaging forward John Papalii. The younger brother of Raiders second-rower Josh returned to the field last week after two months out and made a marked impact.

Gungahlin defeated the Warriors 21-8 in Round two after a strong second half performance saw them capitalise on their 8-4 half-time lead.