For the second year in a row, the Queanbeyan Blues will again face the Goulburn Workers Bulldogs in the TTM Canberra Raiders Cup Grand Final after overcoming a strong finishing the West Belconnen Warriors 26-20 at Seiffert Oval on Sunday.
After finishing the year as Minor Premiers, the Blues lost the Major Semi-Final to the Bulldogs last weekend, whilst the Warriors defeated the Queanbeyan Kangaroos a fortnight ago in the Minor Semi-Final.
Despite coming home with gusto, it was the relatively slow start from the Warriors that cost them a place in the finals, as it took 20 minutes of the game for them to really get into the game. During this time the Blues moved out to a 22-0 lead before the Warriors registered 16 unanswered points of their own to get back into the game after the half-time break.
Queanbeyan got the scoring underway in the 7th minute of the game when some good interchanging between the Blues halves combination of Marc Herbert and Ben Nicoll saw space created for Tom Ruediger to score. The conversion from Craig Wilkinson was successful and it was 6-0 to the Blues.
Ruediger then turned provider for the Blues when he broke free with a burst of speed before smartly drawing the Warriors fullback Dayne Ewings and putting Adam Misios over to score. Wilkinson successfully converted again for a 12 point lead with 12 minutes gone.
The Blues used their early dominance to full effect scoring again in the 18th minute when Tyler Stevens was put into a hole. Wilkinson was successful with the conversion to make the score 18-0.
Queanbeyan scored their fourth unanswered try in the 25th minute when Ruediger scored his second of the game. The Canberra Region representative showed that he has strength to go with his blistering speed, barging across from short range. Wilkinson missed his first conversion for the day leaving it at a 22-point lead to the Blues.
The Warriors were finally able to get onto the scoreboard in the 30th minute when Taniela Moa was first to gather up a grubber kick that was put behind the Blues defence by Ryan Gowing to score next to the post. The conversion from Howard Brown was successful to reduce the gap 18 points.
West Belconnen scored again right before half-time to go into the break with some momentum. After a strong line break from Sheen Lomax, the son of former Raider John then offloaded to Johnny Faletagoa’i who scored in the corner despite a last ditch ankle tap from the Blues defence. Brown was unsuccessful with the conversion to leave the score at 22-10 at half-time.
The Warriors came out and began the second half the way they ended the first with sustained pressure on the defensive line however were unable to really capitalise on the pressure and wasted countless opportunities.
West Belconnen finally opened the scoring in the second half when Lomax crossed after a damaging run close to the line. Brown converted to reduce the gap to six points.
The Blues then regrouped and re-established their lead in the 69th minute when a great cross-field kick from Herbert found winger Jake Wheeler who was able to outjump the Warriors defence to get the ball down and score. The conversion was unsuccessful from Wilkinson leaving the score at 26-16.
The Warriors refused to give up and scored again with four minutes remaining with Lomax scoring his second of the game. Brown was unsuccessful with his conversion attempt and the gap remained at six points.
Unfortunately for West Belconnen that was how the score remained until the final whistle. Despite the best attempts of the Warriors to try and level scores they could not break down the tenacious Blues defence.
West Belconnen Coach Justin Giteau praised the performance of opposition centre Tom Ruediger for his great performance that helped knock his side out.
"Tommy's one of the best centres if not players in the competition,” Giteau said. “The start of the day was what ultimately cost us.
“We weren't winning the ruck early, we were making too many errors and they were just rolling down the field. Good players like Tommy take advantage of stuff like that.”
QUEANBEYAN BLUES 26 (Ruediger 2, Stevens, Wheeler, Misios tries; Wilkinson 3/5 goals) defeated WEST BELCONNEN WARRIORS 20 (Lomax 2, McQueen, Moa tries; Brown 2/4 goals)