Goulburn Workers Bulldogs (2) v Queanbeyan Blues (1) on Saturday at 2:00pm at Goulburn Workers Arena
In what is a Grand Final rematch from 2014, Goulburn can expect an extremely focused Queanbeyan outfit after the defending premiers luckily escaped with a last-minute victory over Woden last weekend.
Woden was set for the upset of the season when halfback Josh Burns slotted a field goal to put them ahead by one point late into the second half, however in the last play of the day, a spectacular chip and chase from the Blues’ Canberra Region representative, Tom Ruediger, set up Jake Wheeler to score between the posts to steal victory from the Rams’ grasps.
“I was very happy with the result but our performance as a team wasn't up to the standards we have set over the last couple of years,” Blues Coach Simon Woolford said.
“It seems like at the moment we are finding our best efforts at the back end of games which is good in a way but also disappointing as we want to start games the way we're finishing them.”
The man who scored the match-winning try, Wheeler, believes that opposition teams are lifting their performances significantly to try and be the first team to beat the Blues this season, but concedes that just comes with the territory of being the number one ranked side.
“There’s a lot of pressure on us with other teams lifting to play us each game and wanting to be the team to knock us off first,” Wheeler said. “We’re just focused on maintaining our winning streak though, we can’t worry about what other teams are thinking, we want to win every game!”
Wheeler, a Canberra Region representative, will have an interesting individual dual with Goulburn winger Tim Turner, who has scored back-to-back hat-tricks.
“It’s going to be a good game and one that we’re all looking forward to,” Wheeler said. “It was a close game last time we faced each other so it should be interesting this time around.
“Tim will be hard to contain but I think that Tommy [centre partner Tom Ruediger] and I should be able to do a job on him if we continue to communicate well with each other.
“Tom is a great player and he’s a pleasure to play outside of. He gets a lot of wraps for his attack and deservedly so but he really helps me out in defence with his talk.”
Queanbeyan defeated Goulburn 32-22 back in Round 3 and Wheeler believes the key to again trumping the second placed Bulldogs is to shut down the Picker brothers – Ben, Mick and Joe.
“If we shut down the Picker boys it will help us to win the game; they’re their main threats so if we shut down those guys we should be in for a good day.”
Queanbeyan Kangaroos (3) v Tuggeranong Bushrangers (7) on Saturday at 3:00pm at Freebody Oval
Queanbeyan will be gunning for their fifth win in a row when they confront Tuggeranong in front of their parochial home fans on Saturday afternoon.
After an inconsistent start to the year, the Roos have hit a purple patch of form of late and proven that despite losing nine players from last year’s line-up, they are still able to give this competition a real shake-up come finals time.
“It’s been a pretty slow start to the year but we’re building and getting better at the right time of the year,” said Queanbeyan Assistant Coach Jack Giddings. “We’re hopeful that we can hold onto our top four spot.”
A pivotal figure in the Roos’ mid-season resurgence has been the return of mercurial five-eighth or fullback Jordan Macey, who was playing in American at the start of the season.
“We’ve lost nine players from last year’s squad but we’re lucky to have Mace back now,” 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.”
Tuggeranong has endured a difficult season with just one victory to date and will be hoping to finish the season on a high note with a string of victories to build into next year.
The Roos defeated the Bushrangers 30-20 earlier this year in Round 3.
Woden Valley Rams (6) v Gungahlin Bulls (4) on Saturday at 3:00pm at Phillip District Oval
Woden will look to use last week’s heartbreaking loss to the top of the table Queanbeyan Blues as motivation when they tackle Gungahlin on Saturday afternoon.
The Rams looked set to be the first team in 2015 to defeat the defending premiers, leading 19-18 with just under a minute remaining on the clock.
Alas, up stepped the centre-wing combination of Ruediger and Wheeler, and in a brilliant chip-and-chase effort between the pair, they combined to break the Rams’ hearts.
“I don't think our boys deserved to lose like that, they put in a lot of effort and just to lose like that is devastating but overall I'm very pleased with the effort they put in,” Rams Coach Ash Barnes said afterwards.
“The boys know they're very close to being able to beat the best teams in the competition. We will take a lot out of today's game, as a group we will learn from a few little things and improve for next week.”
With Gungahlin suffering an injury crisis of late and in the midst of a three game losing streak, Woden will be well placed to upset the fourth placed Bulls at home and keep their semi-finals aspirations alive.
The Bulls defeated the Rams 30-18 at home back in Round 3.
West Belconnen Warriors (5) v Belconnen United Scholars (8) on Sunday at 3:00pm at Raiders Belconnen
Raiders Belconnen will play host to the ‘Battle of Belconnen’ when the Warriors and the Scholars face off in the eagerly awaited local derby on Sunday afternoon.
This local rivalry has heated up over recent years and both teams will be fired up for a win – the Warriors to continue their push into the top four and the Scholars to secure their first victory of the season.
West Belconnen kept themselves in contention for a finals birth following an unexpected 10-point defeat of the Gungahlin Bulls at home last weekend, which now sees the Warriors climb to fifth on the TTM Canberra Raiders Cup ladder.
It is clear to see that the Scholars have had a forgettable year, with the side positioned as the cellar dwellers of the competition following their zero-from-nine start to the year. Despite this, the Scholars were very impressive against the third placed Queanbeyan Roos last week, going down by just four points, which alludes to the belief that they are not far away from their first win of the season.
The Warriors got the better of the Scholars in their previous clash in Round 3, winning 36-24.