Ben Alexander's Owls' comeback ends in draw as props dominate
Three ACT Brumbies props almost pulled of a hat-trick of John I Dent Cup miracles on Saturday, but Ben Alexander's first game in six years for the Uni-Norths Owls ended in heartbreak.
The individual club rugby tales of Alexander, Faalelei Sione and Les Leuluaialii-Makin were the perfect subplot to three separate tense battles in the capital's premier division.
Charlie Luteru scored two tries as Wests were beaten by Queanbeyan.
Alexander, the most capped player in Brumbies history and a passionate Owls clubman, played his first game since 2012 and was on track for a dream return until Tuggeranong spoiled the party.
The Owls were leading 17-12 with no time left in the match when Tuggeranong's Brett Naylor scored from close range to snatch an unlikely draw in dramatic fashion.
Alexander was gutted and an Owls win would have capped a brilliant day for his fellow Brumbies front-rowers union as Super Rugby players returned to action.
Leuluaialii-Makin's scrum dominance helped the Queanbeyan Whites beat Wests 26-20 at Jamison Oval, but Sione's effort was more like a winger than a front-rower.
The Royals big man scored a hat-trick of tries to inspire defending premiers Royals to a win against the Gungahlin Eagles 38-5 at Phillip Oval.
But while it was all scrums and tries for the Brumbies' trio, goal kicking proved the major difference in two of the three matches after Tuggeranong missed a conversion to win the game.
Wests also struggled with the boot and failed to convert any of their four tries in a six-point loss, which leaves last season's grand finalists still searching for their first win of the year.
"It was four tries each so it was unfortunate we couldn't get there, but to be honest we didn't have any of the ball and the guys gutsed it out," said Wests coach Craig Robberds.
"We just couldn't win any set piece, they had Les there and a massive pack. We just couldn't get the set piece going to get us any points, but we'll take confidence out of that."
Leuluaialii-Makin made his presence felt at scrum time, helping Queanbeyan to a first-half penalty try to give them a narrow half-time lead.
Carl Elliott and Tom Holland scored tries in the second half for Queanbeyan despite having OJ Noa sent off after the break.
But Wests refused to go away, with Charlie Luteru scoring a double and Brodie Leber crossing to give the home side hope in the last seconds of the game.
Queanbeyan held on and the Whites are undefeated after the first three games of the year.
"That's obviously the primary purpose and we did that, but we looked really good and then couldn't build pressure," said Queanbeyan coach Paul Dillon.
"It was just silly stuff. I told [the players] they're a talented bunch of footy players, but they need to be smarter. If we don't get smarter, we won't be genuine [contenders] at the end of the year.
"It was probably a step backwards in our development. We need to be twice as good next week when we play against Tuggeranong."
AT A GLANCE
John I Dent Cup: QUEANBEYAN WHITES 26 (Ryan Jones, penalty try, Carl Elliott, Tom Holland tries; Will Goddard 3 conversions) bt WESTS 20 (Charlie Luteru 2, Brodie Leber, Seb Lorraway tries); ROYALS 38 (Faalelei Sione 3, Andy Muirhead, Mike Fakava tries; Pedro Rolando 5 conversions, penalty) bt GUNGAHLIN EAGLES 5 (Eli Sinoti try); UNI-NORTHS OWLS 17 (Panashe Kamhara 2, Phil Ferreira tries; Jordan Thompson conversion) drew with TUGGERANONG VIKINGS 17 (Brendon Taueki, Joe Vejvoda, Brett Naylor tries; Brendon Taueki conversion).
Women's: Royals 52 bt Gungahlin Eagles 40.
Second grade: Royals 45 bt Gungahlin Eagles 7; Queanbeyan Whites 38 bt Wests 7.
Colts: Gungahlin Eagles 17 bt Royals 14, Queanbeyan Whites 74 bt Wests 7.
First grade: Queanbeyan Whites 52 bt Wests 21, Royals 17 bt Gungahlin Eagles 14, Easts 36 bt Cooma 19, ADFA 43 bt Young 10.
Second grade: Wests 38 bt Queanbeyan Whites 31, Gungahlin Eagles 20 bt Royals 17.
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