The Canberra Raiders have overcome a poor first half showing to scrape past the Canterbury Bulldogs 34-20 at GIO Stadium.
Jack Wighton scored two second half tries to help the Raiders overturn an 8 point deficit at half time and stay in touch with the top 4.
The Raiders looked to have scored the first try of the match through Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, but they were denied by the bunker and then it was the Bulldogs turn to go on the attack.
A wonderful pass from Lachlan Lewis saw Dallin Watene-Zelezniak cross in the corner for the first try of the match to give the Bulldogs a 6-0 lead after 10 minutes.
It didn’t take long for the Raiders to hit back though, with Joe Tapine shrugging off several defenders to score under the posts and level the scores.
The Raiders had their second try just a minute later when Will Hopoate dropped a high ball that George Williams collected and passed to Tom Starling for his first try of the evening and give the Raiders a 12-6 lead after 18 minutes.
Despite trailing on the scoreboard, the Bulldogs were winning the territory battle and it was only a matter of time before they made the Raiders pay.
Raymond Faitala-Mariner scored to get the Bulldogs back into the game after an obstruction was cleared by the bunker and Josh Jackson crossed shortly after to give his side a 14-12 lead 35 minutes in.
Then right on the half time siren, the Bulldogs put up a bomb that the Raiders failed to defuse and Kerrod Holland recovered the ball and put through a grubber which he grounded himself to give the Bulldogs all the momentum and a 20-12 lead at half time.
The Raiders were after a fast start in the second half but an early error from Jarrod Croker was followed by poor discipline that saw Starling head to the sinbin for 10 minutes after repeat infringements.
Down to 12 men, Curtis Scott then left the field with a lower leg injury which saw 20-year-old Matt Timoko come on for his first taste of NRL action.
The 12 men Raiders managed to hold out the Bulldogs and after Timoko earned his side a penalty, they found themselves on the attack.
Enter Jack Wighton. He willed himself past three Bulldogs defenders to plant the ball down and bring the score back to 20-18 after 48 minutes.
He wasn’t finished with just one try though and 6 minutes later he brushed aside a would-be tackler to give the Raiders the lead 22-20.
Perhaps going down to 12 men was what the Raiders needed to ingite themselves and it was Wighton along with Josh Papalii that led from the front to help outscore the Bulldogs 10-0 with Starling off the field.
The Raiders continued to dominate once Starling returned and a lovely pass from Papalii to Hudson Young saw him barge his way over and extend the Raiders lead to 28-20.
The Raiders continued to press and in the 70th minute, Starling strolled over from dummy half for the Raiders fourth try in a row and secure the 34-20 victory.
Papalii was simply outstanding in the second half when his side needed him most. He ran for a game-high 222 metres and showed his importance to this side.
Tapine was also superb in the middle, running for 164 metres to go along with his try while Wighton now has four tries in his past two games.
The win sets up a blockbuster clash with the 4th placed Sydney Roosters at GIO Stadium on Saturday 6 September.
A win will see the 5th placed Raiders leapfrog the Roosters on the ladder and put themselves in the box seat for a top 4 finish.