The Canberra Raiders have set up a Grand Final rematch against the Roosters next week after a big second half saw them defeat the Cronulla Sharks 32-20 in an elimination final in front of 9,602 fans at GIO Stadium.
Jack Wighton and George Williams scored doubles as the Raiders overcame a four point deficit at half time to book their spot in the next round against the Sydney Roosters on Friday night, 9 October.
The Sharks got on the board first with a penalty goal after a John Bateman trip, but the Raiders hit back straight away through Joe Tapine who bullied his way over the line to give the Raiders a 6-2 lead after 10 minutes.
The lead was short-lived however, as the Sharks got on top of the Raiders forwards and they capitalised with Ronaldo Mulitalo scoring in the corner to level it up at 6-6 after 19 minutes.
Jordan Rapana then kicked the ensuing kick off out on the full and the Sharks got back to back penalties to regain a 8-6 lead.
Rapana then had his second error in a matter of minutes after dropping the ball cold running it off his own line. The Sharks pounced on the loose ball and Blayke Brailey crossed to extend their lead to 14-6 after 28 minutes.
The game continued to be played on the Sharks terms, but a big play from Williams near half time swung the momentum the Raiders’ way. With the Sharks on the attack, Williams read the play beautifully to intercept a Wade Graham pass and sprinted 60 metres to score in front of a roaring crowd and reduce the margin to 14-10 at half time.
The Raiders needed someone to step up early in the second half, and after a quiet first 40 minutes, and their star five-eighth delivered.
Wighton used his footy smarts to play on quickly from a penalty to catch the Sharks defence napping and scored next to the posts to give the Raiders the lead back at 16-14.
Just two minutes later and WIghton had had his second after miraculously hanging onto a cross field kick from Williams to plant the ball down over the line and extend the Raiders lead to eight points.
The Raiders continued to surge as Hudson Young made a break down field only to be stopped 10 metres short, but on the next play, Wighton turned provider as he set up Williams to barge over from close range for his second try.
Elliott Whitehead scored the Raiders fifth consecutive try after a grubber from Jarrod Croker to extend their lead to 32-14 after 65 minutes to all but seal the victory.
The Sharks had little opportunities to hit back but finally got a consolation try after an intercept ftom Sione Katoa in the dying minutes to bring the final score to 32-20 and bring an end to an up and down season for the Sharks.
The Raiders season will continue next week with a highly anticipated rematch of last year’s Grand Final against the Roosters after they lost to Panthers last night, but they will need to improve on tonight’s performance if they are to topple the reigning premiers.