Round five of the 2020 George Tooke Shield was played over the weekend, and it proved to be momentous for two of the regional teams in the competition.
After the Gunning Roos upset the Bungendore Tigers on Saturday with a 14-10 victory, the Gordon Highlanders eeked out a narrow 6-0 win over the Burranjong Bears on Sunday to cement their place at the top of the ladder.
Following a couple of hard-fought but comprehensive losses against the Highlanders and the Tigers in the first two rounds, Gunning have bounced back to win two of their last three matches in recent weeks.
Under the guidance of a new coach in Paul Loughhead and with some new imports to the side, Gunning has taken a while to click.
In the last few weeks, the team's exciting, fast-paced brand of play has settled and after thrashing the Bears, 42-0 in round three, the Roos very nearly beat the Highlanders on August 16 before last weekend's win over the Tigers.
Early in the season, it looked as though it would be a two-horse race between the Highlanders and the Tigers. But Gunning's recent success has thrown that theory by the wayside and, with four rounds left to play, there is plenty of time for the Roos to continue their climb up the ladder.
Currently in third place, Gunning has begun to close the gap on Bungendore in second. With two wins and three losses, they are only three points behind the Tigers.
Meanwhile, the Highlanders secured their position atop the ladder with a gritty win on Sunday.
After three thrashings in their first three matches, the Bears recruited intelligently and improved to push Bungendore and the Highlanders in rounds four and five.
Though narrow, the Gordon's win yesterday - combined with the Tigers' defeat - has given them some breathing space in the number one spot.
On nine points, the Highlanders are the only team to remain undefeated, and the give-no-quarters ethos instilled in the team by coach John Sykes seems to have paid off.
This was particularly evident on Sunday, as the Highlanders played yet another scrappy match on a pitch which was reduced largely to mud by the week's rain.
The only try of the game was scored by Dwayne Sakiasi, while Isaac Ianham, Kalib Simon, Lachlan Greenwood, and Tommy Whittaker were all named among the best players on ground by coach John Sykes.
This weekend, on Saturday, August 29, the Highlanders will look to further strengthen their lead against the Bungendore Tigers at Mick Sherd Oval from 2pm. Meanwhile, the Roos will play the Bears at Boorowa Showground from 2.30pm.
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