Canberra Raiders reacted in great style after criticism from their own coach to beat Canterbury Bulldogs 26-10, their first victory of the season at their fifth attempt.
After being labelled “soft” by their coach Ricky Stuart, it was obvious that the Raiders would come out firing. They were the first to open up their opponents. But when Sam Williams kicked in behind the Bulldogs, Michael Oldfield couldn’t scoop up the ball to score a certain try.
The Raiders had to survive some Canterbury pressure before they pounced to open the scoring. Nick Cotric, deputising at fullback in place of Jack Wighton, set Jordan Rapana free on the right. When tackled by Jeremy Marshall-King, Joey Leilua picked up the ball from dummy-half and found his way to the line.
The duo on the right combined again. Rapana batted back a high Aidan Sezer bomb to Leilua on the runaround. Leilua almost scored his hat-trick try on 33 minutes but the ball was dislodged as he went to ground it.
Despite being down to 15 available men with Ata Hingano and Michael Oldfield both ruled out after HIA tests, the Raiders continued to create chances and almost added a third try. Canberra did well to create an overlap on the left but Cotric’s pass to Elliott Whitehead was dropped.
They were made to pay when Kieran Foran ran upfield off a Will Hopoate offload. A few tackles later, the Raiders’ defensive line was still not set and that allowed Foran to score.
Hopoate almost drew the game level but couldn’t quite ground the ball from a Foran kick. Canberra’s bench woes increased when Sam Williams was escorted from the field leaving only one player on the bench.
That didn’t bother the Raiders though. Sezer kicked over the top for the stand-in winger Jarrod Croker to gather and saunter in. Only seven minutes later, the two combined again for Croker to rise above the Bulldogs defence and take another Sezer kick.
Croker added two penalties in the last ten minutes to stretch the Raiders’ lead to 26-6 but Josh Morris had the final say when he scored a try on the hooter after the Bulldogs spread the play to the left.
Raiders: Cotric, Oldfield, Croker, Leilua, Rapana, Sezer, Williams, Soliola, Havili, Paulo, Tapine, Whitehead, Bateman; Interchanges: Hingano, Boyd, Lui, Knight
Tries: Leilua 2, Croker 2; Goals: Croker 5
Bulldogs: Mbye, B Morris, J Morris, Hopoate, Marshall-King, Foran, Woods, Lichaa, Klemmer, Jackson, Faitala-Mariner, Elliott; Interchanges: Fualalo, Holland, Eastwood, Fine
Tries: Foran, J Morris; Goals: Mbye
On report: Jackson – late tackle
Full match reports of all this weekend’s NRL games will feature in Monday’s League Express