Raiders book place in grand final

RUGBY UNION

Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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Raiders coach Travis Gooch (above) has taken the team to a new level and his success is clearly evident in him guiding the team to the final on Saturday against Wanderers at Barlow Park at 6pm. Image: Joanne Cowe.
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In what can only be described as a remarkable turnaround after a few seasons in the ‘wilderness’, the Port Douglas Reef Raiders rugby union team have booked a place in the A-Grade Grand Final against Wanderers on Saturday at Barlow Park at 6pm.

This follows their gutsy and determined performance at the weekend when they beat Barron 27-13 after leading 17-13 at half time. Wanderers hammered JCU 57-15 in their elimination match.

In looking forward to the final, Raiders coach Travis Gooch said Wanderers are a strong side who like to attack from anywhere on the field and the Raiders defence will be tested once again this weekend.

"We have been building up to this moment for the last 2-3 years. There has been a huge amount of work gone in by the players and club to get us to where we are today. It means a lot to everyone involved and a premiership would top it off," said Gooch.

In reflecting on the Barron victory, Raiders captain Jack Murday said he was pleased with the win in what was a 100 per cent team contribution.

“We were on the wrong side of the penalty count, territory and possession, but still managed to finish the game with a comfortable lead. Barron played with a lot of determination and tested our defence for the duration of the game.

“It is reassuring to know that we crossed the line almost every time we had possession. Better discipline with the off-side line and ruck infringements will be crucial for us in the grand final and something we will be looking to improve on during the week.

“The team is bonding well. I’m confident that we will lift to another level and make the club proud in what will be our biggest challenge of the year,” said Murday.

A key feature of the game was how well the Raiders defence held after being reduced to 13 players after Murday and Elisaia Tokarahi were both shown yellow cards for repeated infringements. The Raiders defence held firm in what was a decisive period of the game to stop continuous attacks from Barron getting over the try line.

"That defensive effort won us the game. The game was in the balance and we were down to 13 players. The boys dug deep and showed a lot of heart to keep Barron scoreless through that period.

“You can plan for many things, but to lose two players to the sinbin five minutes apart can impact any side.

However, the players stood up and showed how much they wanted to win it. I'm proud of the way they responded and they rightfully deserve their spot in the Grand Final,” said Gooch.

When Murday was back on the field, the Raiders were finally able to break away from their own goal line and ended with a try at the other end of the field. The Raiders scored again not long after to put the game out of reach and book their spot in the Grand Final.

“The front row laid the foundation for the Raiders win, led by Dylan Leahy, Kornylius Tuimauga and Thaddius Minniecon. Much of the same will be needed this weekend against the Wanderers who breezed past last year's premiers JCU 57-15 in the other semi-final,” said Gooch.

Raiders’ points came from tries by Dylan Leahy, Esteban Correa, Kornylius Tuimauga, Pete Gilmour, William Brown. Tomas Venter added a conversion.

See all the action from the game below. All Images by Joanne Cowe.



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