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A dominating defensive display and a splurge of tries either side of half-time ensured GPS remain undefeated in 2012, stealing a 22-18 win over Sunnybank in round three of the Queensland Premier Rugby competition on Saturday.
After leading 13-0 in the first half and dictating possession for the majority of the game, the loss added salt to the Dragons’ wounds with influential St.George Queensland Reds prop Albert Anae leaving the field with a broken arm in the third minute of the second half.
The game was hyped as a battle of the packs with Anae pitted against prolific Reds no.8 Radike Samo—who was included in the GPS starting line-up minutes before kick-off—but after Samo was dealt a yellow card for a dangerous tackle, it proved to be a team effort from the GPS defence that held off the persistent Sunnybank attack late in the game.
The result marked the second tight win on the trot for the Gallopers, getting away with a 25-20 win over Souths last week, but assistant coach Brett Piccone said they can’t rely on luck next week when they meet competition heavyweights University.
“It’s good to come away with a win and our defensive effort was excellent, but we’ve got a lot to work on for next week. University are going to be tough, but we were lucky today to be honest,” Piccone said, filling in for absent head coach Shane Arnold.
“Our defensive effort was just outstanding. The tackles that had to be made were made and it was just a good team effort in defence.”
With Sunnybank locking the play in the GPS left corner for the last twenty minutes, coach Rod Seib said they let the win slip away this week, but with the Gallopers scoring all their points in ten minutes he said it’s still the Dragons best performance this season.
“The game was there for the taking at the end and we just didn’t get over the line, so credit to them. Obviously they had to defend very well, but in saying that we need to be a lot more clinical about what we’re doing and make sure that we’ve got that polish on our performance so that when we get into that try zone we can actually score,” Seib said.
“Even though we came out with a loss, seventy minutes we were on a game plan, seventy minutes we had a forward pack that worked together. While we’re disappointed with the loss, it’s by far and away our best performance.”
The defensive stalemate was evident from the kick-off with play teetering over the halfway line, but after converting two penalty kicks Sunnybank gained the advantage and continued to threaten the Jeeps line, characterised by powerful runs from Anae.
The Dragons finally converted their possession in the 33rd minute when a cut-out pass put winger Peter Lee into space, but with kicker Dion Taumata tending to a cut forehead it was centre Henry Taefu who took Sunnybank to a commanding 13-0 lead.
But, when GPS found themselves in the Sunnybank end in the last minute of the half they took advantage of tiring defence, rushing to a 13-10 half-time score with a penalty goal and converted try off the back of a charging run from flanker Mogi Wei.
After Sunnybank let the kick-off bounce away from them, the Gallopers followed up with a try in the opening minute of the second half with Samo shifting the ball to Alex Soutar, who planted the ball in the left corner and put GPS in the lead of the match.
With Anae leaving the field clutching his left arm a few minutes later, Sunnybank seemed in disarray as an impressive break from GPS winger Byron Roberts put the Gallopers on the attack to extend their lead to 22-13 in the 49th minute.
But, the Dragons regained control after fullback Danny Routledge broke the Gallopers’ left side defence and narrowed the deficit to just four points with over twenty minutes remaining.
When Samo was dealt a yellow card for a high arm in the 63rd minute, Sunnybank had the clear advantage and were unrelenting at the GPS try-line, but ultimately they couldn’t penetrate Jeeps sturdy denfensive line.
The injury to Anae was the biggest disappointed for Sunnybank on the day, with Seib full of praise for the prop, who adds vital power and vigour to the Dragons camp.
“It’s a big disappointment for Alby. He’s immense and to have him in our pack is enormous,” Seib said.
“He’s one of those guys that comes back from the Reds and puts his heart and soul into his performance, so hopefully he’s ok but from all reports he might have a suspected break there in his arm.”
The undefeated GPS have cemented their spot in the top three of the competition—along with Brothers and University—and while Piccone said the inclusion of Samo is a boost in the camp, they still have room to move going further into the season.
“Everyone wants a Reds player in your team and he [Samo] is great. He comes down to training and works with the boys, so it’s excellent to have a big man in there,” Piccone said.
“The boys are playing with confidence and for each other, which is really important. We just need to keep building into the season. We’re not where we want to be yet.”
GPS 22 (Alex Soutar 2, Matt Blain, tries; Pat Smith 2 con pen)def Sunnybank 18 (Peter Lee, Danny Routledge, tries; Dion Taumata pen, Henry Taefu pen con)
By Amy Price
16 FEBRUARY 2019