Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
Tries: Tupou, Feki, Leutele tries
Goals: Gordon- 2 conversions 2 penalties
Tries: Wighton 2, Rapana, Waqa tries
Goals: Croker- 3 conversions, 1 penalty
The Canberra Raiders have started their 2015 NRL campaign in a positive style, defeating the Cronulla Sharks 24-20 in a spiteful encounter at Remondis Stadium.
In front of 11,096 fans, Jack Wighton led a spirited Raiders’ outfit to the win, highlighted by his impressive try from a 20m tap in his own half.
Wighton opened the scoring for the Raiders in the 8th minute of the game, when captain Jarrod Croker offloaded to the fullback who burst through a hole from close range.
The two sides traded blows without success, before a Chris Heighington shoulder charge on Raider Blake Austin, saw Croker gifted two points via a penalty to extend the lead to 8-0.
But just two minutes later, Cronulla, who were their own worst enemies with a woeful completion rate early, found their way to the line.
It was Heighington who made up for his earlier blunder, by slipping a ball away after drawing the defence for Anthony Tupou to cross under the uprights.
Wighton then stepped up again for his quick tap try. Sharks’ recruit Ben Barba put up a bomb that flew into the Raiders’ in goal and was easily taken by Wighton.
Slow to react the Sharks struggled to get back onside, while Wighton went straight through some would be defenders to score down the far end of the field and give the Raiders a 14-6 halftime lead.
The Sharks looked to improve on their poor first half, and struck early in the second stanza through winger Sosaia Feki, who found himself outside his opposite number courtesy of a Barba cut out.
When Michael Gordon converted, the Sharks had cut the lead to just two points with 35 minutes left.
The Raiders didn’t take long to take the margin back to a converted try when they shifted the ball right to winger Jordan Rapana, who pushed past Feki to score in the corner.
But the topsy turvey nature of the game continued, and the Sharks were next to score through centre Ricky Leutele.
Michael Gordon failed to convert the try, however made up for the miss via a penalty goal, and locked the game up after 57 minutes.
With the game in the balance, tempers flared, and Wighton reacted to what he deemed unnecessary attention from Feki in the ruck. The Raiders’ number one threw a punch at the Sharks’ winger, who retailiated with some swings of his own. The melee saw both players sin binned, and the penalty goal to the homeside saw them take a 20-18 lead on the hour mark.
The lead was short lived however when Sisa Waqa brushed through some lazy Cronulla defence from marker, with Croker’s conversion giving the travelling side a 24-20 lead.
Wighton had returned to the field for the Canberra side, and just in time, as he saved the day late for the Raiders outfit. Cronulla winger Mitch Brown looked destined to cross the line only to be dragged down by the fullback for the Raiders to prevail 24-20.
The main concern from the match for the travelling side is for Shaun Fensom, who was put on report late in the first half for a chicken wing tackle on Andrew Fifita.