The Canberra Raiders have defied expectations to record one of their greatest victories in recent history as they triumphed 24-20 over the Sydney Roosters at the SCG on Thursday night 16 July.
The Raiders were without several key players but produced a gutsy effort to upset the premiership favourites for a much-needed victory.
The game started in a physical fashion with the Roosters’ kicking game keeping the Raiders pinned in their own territory until Jack Wighton stepped up.
The first foray forward for the Raiders led to points as Wighton broke through the defence before being brought down 10 metres out from the line. A quick play the ball and an offload from Joe Tapine saw Dunamis Lui crash over under the post to make it 6-0 after 11 minutes.
The Roosters hit back quickly though as a beautiful ball from James Tedesco saw Brett Morris go in untouched on the right edge to score his first try in the 15th minute.
The next 15 minutes was all the Roosters as the Raiders continually gave away penalties and made errors with the ball.
The Roosters kicked a penalty goal in the 19th minute and, after a sustained period of dominance, Morris crossed for his second try to make it 12-6 after 29 minutes.
The Raiders had a late opportunity to level the scores before half-time but Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad couldn’t connect with his outside men, so the score remained 12-6 at half-time.
Jarrod Croker got the Raiders off to a flyer in the second half as he got on the end of a Nicoll-Klokstad kick to level the scores at 12-12 after 42 minutes.
The Roosters then received a controversial penalty right in front of the goals after Josh Papalii and Angus Chrichton got into a fracas.
Papalli made a strong tackle on Chrichton who then swung his elbow carelessly and connected with Papalii’s nose.
As you would expect, Papalii then retaliated with a slap across the jaw to Chrichton which then saw players from both teams run in. The referee ruled a penalty against Papalli and the Roosters kicked a penalty goal to regain the lead.
It wouldn’t last long though as George Williams used some fancy footwork to slice through the Roosters line before disposing of Tedesco to score and give the Raiders an 18-14 lead.
A try just 4 minutes later to Matt Ikuvalu saw yet another lead change as the Roosters pulled ahead 20-18.
The Raiders once again split open the Roosters defence through the middle and a lovely pass from Tom Starling sent Papalii through the line and he bolted 25 metres to score right next to the posts and give the Raiders a 24-20 lead after 66 minutes.
There were some tense late moments in the match as the Roosters pressed for a match-winning try, but the Raiders hung tough and came away with a famous victory.
Coach Ricky Stuart said he was “proud” of his side’s performance in the face of adversity, as they were missing several key players and coming off just a five-day break, but he pointed to the Papalii Crighton incident as when he knew his team would win the game.
“When he got whacked in the nose, I don’t understand why we didn’t get the penalty but when he got whacked in the nose like that I was pretty confident we would go on to win the match because you don’t poke the bear,” said Stuart.
“He knew himself he had to step up to the better standard of player. We’re running off the back of him and Joe Tapine at the moment. He’s really lifted his standard of play and the last two weeks he’s been a credit to himself as well.”
Papalii and Tapine were outstanding for the Raiders but they weren’t alone.
The halves Wighton and Williams were superb and replacement hooker Tom Straling made a significant impact when he came on the field in just his first game of the year.
It’s been a difficult period for the Raiders, but that performance showed they are still more than capable of matching it with the best sides in the competition.
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