The Canberra Raiders have kept their season alive with a comprehensive 30-12 win over the Cronulla Sharks at Southern Cross Group Stadium. The victory has kept Canberra in touch with the top eight while the loss for Cronulla could be fatal in their quest to make the top four.
From England with Love
An hour before kick-off, Ricky Stuart dropped the bombshell that he would start Elliot Whitehead at lock and move Joe Tapine from the bench into the vacant backrow spot. It proved to be a masterclass from Stuart with Whitehead having a night to remember on the Shire. The Pom ran for 169 metres, making 29 tackles, one offload which lead to a try and three tackle breaks alongside playing the full 80 minutes. Fellow Englishman Josh Hodgson also had a night to remember with the classy rake scoring a try, setting up one, making a line break and making 32 tackles as well. The two Englishmen linked up for a try right on half-time which really shattered Cronulla. Whitehead and Hodgson could play vital roles for the Raiders run into the finals.
No Maloney No Sharks
Without James Maloney, beating a rampant Raiders was always going to be a tough task. When these sides met in round 2 earlier this season, Maloney was best on ground. The Sharks have not been the same side without Maloney. Chad Townsend and Fa’amanu Brown were not bad by any means but they did not put Canberra any under sort of pressure, they had to take the game by the neck and try and force as many repeat sets as possible. The Premiers only forced two drop outs all night which is not good enough against a big Canberra side. Maloney must return soon for the Sharks if they are any chance of sewing up a top four spot.
Raiders of Old
Where has this been all season from Canberra… They were nothing short of outstanding, beating the premiers convincingly on home soil and only conceding 12 points which was probably the most they get out of the win. They looked like a well-oiled machine, the forwards were rolling spearheaded by Junior Paulo who made 205 metres and Josh Papalii who made 164 metres, their backline movement looked slick and the bench rotation was the best it has been all season. The Raiders looked like the team that finished second last year, they completed their sets at 92% and had 53% of possession as they finally found a way to hold onto the ball, but is it too little too late? Only time will tell, the Green Machine can only continue winning and hope for a Penrith slip up. If Canberra make the eight, be very afraid.
Cronulla gave away too many penalties and made too many silly errors and against quality opposition you will get punished. The Sharks gave away 12 penalties which lead to a period where the Raiders kicked three penalty goals in a row, mind you the Raiders were down to 12 men at the time so they soaked up the clock. The play after Josh Papalii was sinbinned for a professional foul, the Sharks dropped the ball first play and then gave away silly penalties which was the story of their night. They only completed 76% of their sets and only had 47% of possession. The Premiers need to cut out those silly errors as they head to Brisbane next week to take on the Broncos in an important clash which will probably decide which club makes the top four as they stand on the same amount of competition point.
Canberra Raiders – 30
Tries: Josh Papalii, Jordan Rapana (2), Josh Hodgson
Goals: Jarrod Croker 7/8
Cronulla Sharks – 12
Tries: Sosaia Feki, Gerard Beale
Goals: Valentine Holmes 2/3