A spirited second half effort from the West Belconnen Warriors has seen them overcome the Queanbeyan Kangaroos 26-14 at Seiffert Oval in the Minor Semi-Final of the TTM Canberra Raiders Cup.
The Warriors were eliminated from the finals at this stage last year, but the side clearly has momentum at the right time of the season with the win on Saturday their seventh win in a row.
The game started with the Roos able to gain an 8-0 lead by capitalising on several handling errors and ill-discipline from the Warriors, however the second half saw a reversal with West Belconnen punishing Queanbeyan for making several mistakes close to their line.
Warriors Coach Justin Giteau put the shaky start down to pure excitement and nerves heading into the big match.
“I put it down to the players being too pumped up and that really did show early with the mistakes that we made and letting them take an early lead from those mistakes,” he said.
“However at half-time we pin-pointed a few areas that we needed to work on and we took advantage of the mistakes they made in the second half.”
A penalty for the Roos gave them a chance to gain good field position and they capitalised on this when fullback Bryan Cronan scored in the corner after Queanbeyan spread the ball out wide quickly to make use of the overlap they had created. The conversion from Jack Miller was unsuccessful to leave the score at 4-0.
Inability to get out of their own end then cost the Warriors further as the Roos built on their early momentum. A dropped kick from Dayne Ewings saw the Roos score through Sekope Meke after Queanbeyan reacted fastest to the loose ball. The conversion from Miller was again unsuccessful leaving the score at an eight point lead to the Roos with 30 minutes gone.
The Warriors finally got onto the scoreboard in the 38th minute when they capitalised on an error from the Roos and spread the ball out to Howie Brown who dived across to score. Brown failed to convert his own try leaving the score at 8-4.
West Belconnen should have scored again right on half-time when back-rower Tim Sloman was found with no one in front of him less than ten metres out however he dropped the ball cold for the score to remain 8-4 at the break.
The Warriors built on the momentum they gained before half-time crossing in just the third minute of the second stanza. Mike Uluakiola used his brute strength to push the Roos defence aside and barge over to score. Brown was successful with the conversion to give Wests a two point lead.
West Belconnen were quick to score again after Johnny Faletagoa’i pushed past some soft defence from the Roos to score next to the posts to allow for an easy conversion for Brown, who successfully converted to extend the Warriors’ lead out to 16-8.
Queanbeyan managed to claw their way back into the contest and scored their first of the second half in the 51st minute. Adam Pearce displayed tremendous strength to get across the line with three Warriors defenders trying to prevent him from getting there. Miller was successful with the conversion for the first time to reduce their deficit to 16-14.
Unfortunately, moments later the Roos made a mistake coming out of their end and Taniela Moa was able to react fastest to the loose ball and scored. The conversion from Brown was unsuccessful leaving it at a six point lead to Wests Belconnen.
The Warriors then registered back-to-back tries in the 72nd minute when an intelligent offload from Tevita Aroha-Tuinauvai found Ewings in the open and he ran away to score. The conversion from Brown was successful giving West Belconnen a 26-14 lead into the dying stages of the match.
West Belconnen portrayed enough grit and determination to fend off the tenacious Roos and prevail as winners. The Warriors now move into the Preliminary Finals against the loser of the Queanbeyan Blues and Goulburn Workers.
Giteau was overjoyed that his side was able to make it a step further than they did last year.
“To go one step further than last year is an achievement in itself,” he said. “But we obviously don’t want to end our season just yet we want to make the big one.”
The Warriors Coach specifically praised the performance of halfback Brown who really turned the game around for them with his eye-catching individual brililance.
“You give any halfback some good second phase play and they should take advantage of it but when your halfback has the skills that Howie possesses along with his footwork, it’s even harder for the opposition to deal with.”
West Belconnen Warriors 26 (H Brown, D Ewings, J Faletagoa'i, M Uluakiola, T Moa tries; Brown 3/5 goals) defeated Queanbeyan Kangaroos 14 (B Cronan, S Meke, A Pearce tries; J Miller 1/3 goals)
*Queanbeyan Blues play the Goulburn Workers Bulldogs on Sunday at 3:00pm at Seiffert Oval.