The Canberra Raiders suffered yet another second half collapse as they went down 34-20 to the South Sydney Rabbitohs at GIO Stadium in their fourth straight loss.
Canberra held a two-point lead heading into the break but quickly fell behind by 16 points before some controversial bunker decisions ended a late fightback.
It was an awful start to the night for Canberra with an injury in the warm-up to halfback George Williams forcing them shuffle the side. Elliott Whitehead shifted to halfback, Hudson Young came into second row and Sia Soliola slotted onto the bench with Jordan Rapana taking over the goal kicking duties.
The Rabbitohs got on the scoreboard first through a penalty goal before Jordan Rapana scored the first try for Canberra to give them a 4-2 lead.
Alex Johnston was on the end of a lovely pass from Benji Marshall to score the Bunnies first of the night down their favoured left edge.
Two tries in quick succession to Elliott Whitehead and Seb Kris gave the Raiders all the momentum and a 16-8 lead after 27 minutes. However, Campbell Graham hit back with a late try to get the Bunnies within 2 points at half time.
All eyes were on how the Raiders would fare after the break after being outscored 49-4 over their past three second havles but it was just more of the same.
Canberra came out of the break looking flat in attack and defence as the Rabbitohs scored three tries in the first 20 minutes after half time to build a 32-16 lead.
The Rabbitohs found plenty of success hunting down the Raiders right side defence which forced Raiders coach Ricky Stuart to swap Bailey Simonsson for Rapana to sure up the defence.
The Green Machine finally clicked into gear with Curtis Scott making a break down the right side and found Rapana who scored his second of the night to bring Canberra back within 12 after 65 minutes.
The Raiders would then get their chance against a 12-man Rabbitohs side after Jacob Host was sent to the sin bin for the final seven minutes.
This is where the bunker controversy began with Wighton seemingly scoring a brilliant try under the posts. Referee Ben Cummins awarded the try on field before Henry Perenara reversed the decision in the bunker to kill any hint of a Raiders comeback.
Perenara ruled that Marshall was impeded by Emre Guler in the defensive line. The replays on the big screen showed Marshall well and truly played for the penalty which infuriated the 14,260 strong home crowd resulting in a chant of “Bul***t” ringing around the stadium.
That wasn’t the end of the bunker controversy after Wighton was again disallowed a try after he caught the ball on the inside shoulder of Corey Harawira-Naera and was found to have gained an advantage.
Stuart filthy on bunker rulings
The decisions prompted Stuart to lash the interpretation of obstruction in his post-match press conference.
“It was smart by [Benji] Marshall to run forward and try and tackle a person that was going to help him get a penalty. Good gamesmanship,” Stuart said of the first disallowed try.
“There’s no way in [the] world they were going to tackle those players there.
“Anybody with common sense in regard to rugby league knows that they were two tries but while that type of interpretation is in the game it’s going to be a blight on the game, we’ve been talking about it for years.
“You can’t run forward and tackle somebody who’s in front of you and not try and tackle the person with the football.
“I was pleased we got back into it, there was a lot of fight to get back into the game and it should have been a lot closer in the last 10 minutes.”
The Raiders are now sitting at 3 wins and 5 losses on the season and now head to Wagga Wagga to take on the Knights on Saturday 8 May in a crucial clash to reignite their season.
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