John I Dent Cup: Wests show premiership credentials with entertaining 40-31 win against Royals
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John I Dent Cup: Wests show premiership credentials with entertaining 40-31 win against Royals

The Tuggeranong Vikings and Queanbeyan Whites are the two sides to beat in the John I Dent Cup, but Wests showed they can't be discounted as a premiership threat.

Despite being down a man for most of the second half after flanker Sean Doyle was sent off for punching, Wests held off a fast-finishing Canberra Royals 40-31 at Phillip Oval on Saturday.

Wests winger Rob Buaserua was the star of the show with a hat-trick, while Royals fullback Jamie Bodman crossed for a double in an entertaining match played with finals intensity.

Royals trailed by 21 points midway through the second half, but back-to-back tries produced a grandstand finish.

The bonus-point win keeps third-placed Wests in the hunt for a top-two finish, while Royals are just about assured of finishing fourth.

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"Down to 14 players was going to be tough, we gave up too many penalties to keep them in the game, but they're a good side," Wests coach Craig Robberds said.

"There's a good chance we'll play them in three or four weeks."

Royals coach Wayne Southwell said it was a great effort from his side to get back in the game.

"The second half was a lot better, just disappointing first 40 minutes," Southwell said.

"We had the wrong attitude in the first 40, but at least we had good spirit in the second half."

The game was stopped in the first half when Wests flyhalf Seb Lorraway copped a big hit from Royals No. 8 Steve Sione.

Lorraway was carried from the ground with play restarting on the adjoining field.

Wests held a handy 25-12 lead at halftime.

The game moved back to the main field for the start of the second half.

Wests suffered a blow when Doyle was shown a red card for striking a Royals player off the ball.

Royals made the most of the extra man advantage with fly-half Pedro Rolando darting his way through the defence to reduce the gap to five points.

A long-range Wests penalty goal put the visitors ahead 28-19.

Wests continued to defy the odds when their forward pack successfully drove their way under the posts, the conversion taking the lead out to 35-19.

That was extended when Buaserua produced a sensational individual effort to score in the corner.

Royals scored almost answered straight away to get back within 14 points.

The comeback gained momentum when openside flanker Brendan Woodward threw the last pass to put Rolando over the try-line.

Meanwhile, the Uni-Norths Owls sprung the upset of the season with a 21-20 victory against the Vikings at ANU North Oval, while Queanbeyan kept the Gungahlin Eagles scoreless in a 33-0 win at Campese Field.

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JOHN I DENT CUP

Saturday: Wests 40 bt Canberra Royals 31 at Phillip Oval; Uni-Norths Owls 21 bt Tuggeranong Vikings 20 at ANU North Oval; Queanbeyan 33 bt Gungahlin Eagles 0 at Campese Oval.

Lee Gaskin is a sports reporter at The Canberra Times.

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