The Canberra Raiders have prevailed in yet another close match, edging out the North Queensland Cowboys 14-12 in Indigenous round at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville.
Perhaps a little lethargic due to a day of travelling, the Raiders started poorly – an early knock on from Jack Wighton gifted the Cowboys attacking field position.
They promptly took full advantage when hooker Reece Robson scooted out of dummy half close to the line after Dunamis Lui rushed up in defence.
Robson strolled through a yawning gap to score under the sticks to give the Cowboys a 6-0 lead after just 3 minutes.
Canberra continued to struggle in the opening exchanges with the Cowboys kicking game catching makeshift fullback Jordan Rapana out of position several times.
Despite the Cowboys dominating the territory battle early, Canberra’s defence held strong and in the 20th minute they launched a counterattack.
The Raiders shifted the ball to the right deep inside their own half, with quick hands from Curtis Scott putting Nick Cotric into space.
Getting outside of the Cowboys edge defence, Cotric then dished out a strong fend on Ben Hampton before passing to George Williams who found the line to level the scores at 6-6.
The first half continued in a grinding fashion with no side able to gain momentum; a late penalty goal from the boot of Jarrod Croker proved the only difference at half-time, with the Raiders going to the break leading 8-6.
Early in the second half Ricky Stuart turned to his star recruit Corey Harawira-Naera for his first run in the lime green jersey.
It wasn’t the ideal start for Harawira-Naera as a poor read in defence between himself and Ryan Sutton created a huge gap for Cowboys wrecking ball Jason Taumalolo to stroll through under the posts, which gave the Cowboys the lead at 12-6 after 53 minutes.
It didn’t take long for the Raiders to respond though, a six again call gave the Green Machine some good field position and the right-side attack got to work again.
Williams used some clever trickery to suck in defenders before shifting the ball to John Bateman, who easily brushed aside a would be tackler before flicking the ball over the top to Scott, who went himself and scored in the corner.
Having been under pressure this season after some indifferent form, Scott celebrated the try by putting his finger to his mouth to silence the critics.
The scores were tied at 12-a-piece after the try as Croker stepped up for the sideline conversion. He hit the ball as sweetly as you’d like to put the Raiders up 14-12 after 57 minutes.
Canberra continued to press forward, but some costly errors in attacking positions denied them the knockout blow as fans were made to sweat on the outcome.
Despite some early troubles for Rapana at fullback, his effort was unquestionable as he got better as the game went on; coming up with several big runs late to work the Raiders out of trouble.
The Cowboys had one last chance with an attacking set and only one minute on the clock, but a knock-on handed the Raiders possession and sealed the win.
Bateman was a standout in his first game of the season, playing the full 80 minutes and being involved in both Canberra tries.
Harawira-Naera, also playing his first game in 2020, made a solid contribution in 31 minutes off the bench and will no doubt be better for the run.
The Raiders sit in 5th position after their third consecutive victory but will face the ultimate test against the top of the ladder Panthers in Penrith next Saturday night, 8 August.