By David Polkinghorne August 05, 2012
Wests player Jesse Mogg comes into to tackle Gungahlin player Ita Vaea as he disposes of the ball during the match at Nicholls Oval. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
IN A bid to close the gap with the table-topping Tuggeranong Vikings, Owen Finegan set his Gungahlin Eagles the task of playing finals-like rugby in the closing rounds of the John I Dent Cup.
And they responded in emphatic fashion yesterday, using a strong wind to blow away Wests 41-13 at Nicholls.
Wests failed to take advantage of the breeze in the first half, going into the break 7-6 down, thanks to a Rutikha Ilolahia first-half try to Gungahlin.
In contrast, the Eagles took just four minutes of the second half to extend their lead, with ACT Brumbies back-rower Ita Vaea breaking three tackles before crossing the line.
Mitchell Connolly, Cam Crawford and 100-gamer Andrew Barrell then put the result beyond doubt.
Brumbies lock Peter Kimlin barged over for a consolation try for Wests, before Connolly added his second in the dying seconds of the game.
The win moved Gungahlin above Wests into second spot and the Eagles now have the bye before facing Tuggeranong in the final round.
Gungahlin coach Finegan wanted the Eagles to play with finals intensity for the last few weeks.
''We spoke about this game against Wests and the next game against Vikings with being preparation for good, hard footy - finals footy,'' he said.
''Traditionally we've started well and come home poorly and we're trying to change that.''
Former Brumbies winger Crawford will join the NSW Waratahs next season, but he won't leave Canberra until the Eagles' season comes to a close.
He doesn't want to leave the capital without the John I Dent title to his name.
Crawford was one of several Super Rugby players on the park and enjoyed getting one over his former teammate Jesse Mogg, who played fullback for Wests.
The flyer scored a lovely second-half try, breaking the line near halfway before selling Mogg a dummy and cruising over the tryline.
''I'll enjoy getting back to Sydney but until then I really want to play well here for the team and make sure we can take out the grand final, that's the goal,'' Crawford said.
Wests coach Craig Robberds said his side was completely outplayed.
''They just killed us at the breakdown, were too physical, so we didn't get past two phases I don't think,'' Robberds said.
''They were impressive, tough at the breakdown, and once they got loose out wide they were hard to stop.''
Wests winger Alex McNamara suffered a nasty cut to his finger and went straight to hospital.
The battle for fourth spot has intensified after Royals' 50-22 victory over Uni-Norths, combined with Vikings' 55-13 win over Queanbeyan.
Sixth-placed Royals are now just six points behind Queanbeyan in fourth, with Uni-Norths wedged in between the two.