A thrilling performance from the Canberra Raiders on Saturday afternoon at GIO Stadium saw them continue their reign of upsets, defeating the South Sydney Rabbitohs 24-12.
The Rabbitohs’ intent to challenge the defence of the Raiders’ left edge was evident in the opening exchanges of this Round 24 clash. Back to back penalties in the 9thand 10thminutes gave the Rabbitohs valuable field position, from which they capitalised. A great sweeping pass from halfback Adam Reynolds saw five eighth Cody Walker use his agility to beat four Raiders defenders and put his team out to a 6-point lead. It was centre Greg Inglis who continued the Rabbitohs’ dominance just eight minutes later, when he spun out of Joseph Leilua’s tackle and sprinted down the left side to score his 19thcareer try against the Raiders. The Raiders’ response came in the 30thminute against the run of play, when centre Michael Oldfield spectacularly grounded a Josh Hodgson grubber kick just millimetres before the dead ball line. A missed conversion from goalkicker Sam Williams saw the Rabbitohs go in to half time with a 12-4 lead.
Despite the Rabbitohs dominating the Raiders for the majority of the first half, it was the boys from Canberra who emerged with more determination in both defence and attack. Almost immediately after Rabbitoh Jason Clark was sent to the sin bin for a professional foul, the Raiders scored their first points of the second half. A sublime cut out ball from Hodgson isolated Rabbitoh Angus Crichton and created the space for Oldfield to score his second try of the afternoon and reduce the Rabbitohs’ lead to just two points. A handling error from Rabbitohs fullback Alex Johnston gifted the home side a repeat set and laid the foundation for their next try. After drawing the attention of Reynolds, Raiders five eighth Blake Austin double pumped and delivered a short ball to Iosia Soliola, who ran through a yawning gap and scored to put his team ahead for the first time in the match. The icing on the cake came in the 70thminute, when a great run from Nick Cotric saw him step his way past three defenders and beat Rabbitoh Tevita Tatola to the try line. A penalty goal to the Raiders in the 79thminute was a fitting end to a spectacular battle and saw the Raiders secure a 24-12 victory over the Rabbitohs.
Four Points Separate Top Eight
In what is the closest competition that the NRL has seen in years, just four points separate the competition leading Melbourne Storm (32 points) and the eighth-placed Brisbane Broncos (28 points). When considering that every team in the top eight has the potential to edge themselves into the top four, the final round of the regular season is shaping up to be a blockbuster.
This Round 24 clash yielded a flurry of penalties. Throughout the entirety of the match, 16 penalties were blown (10 Raiders, 6 Rabbitohs). When considering the amount of time that the players take to readjust after a stoppage, this alarming number of penalties significantly reduced the amount of the time that the ball was in play.
Green Machine Fire
The Raiders’ dominance in the past fortnight has seen them beat two premiership favourites, in the Sydney Roosters and the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Whilst they have been unable to exhibit a great deal of consistency thus far in 2018, their effort in their past two matches has given fans a glimpse into how dominant they can be in both attack and defence if they put in a complete 80-minute performance.
Raiders’ Forwards Terrific
In what was another dominant performance, the Raiders forward pack was instrumental in restricting the Rabbitohs’ go forward. Junior Paulo, Josh Papalii and Iosia Soliola were tremendous, running for 494 metres between them. It was this willingness in attack that set the tone for what would be a fierce battle. However, it was their effort in defence that was the most instrumental. Driving Rabbitohs’ backrower Angus Crichton 10 metres back to force a goal line drop out with only two minutes remaining summed up their intent and desire to secure victory.
Canberra Raiders 24
Tries: Michael Oldfield 2, Iosia Soliola, Nick Cotric
Goals: Sam Williams 4
South Sydney Rabbitohs 12
Tries: Cody Walker, Greg Inglis
Goals: Adam Reynolds 2
Canberra Raiders: 1 Brad Abbey, 2 Nick Cotric, 3 Michael Oldfield, 4 Joseph Leilua, 5 Jordan Rapana, 6 Blake Austin, 7 Sam Williams, 8 Dunamis Lui, 9 Josh Hodgson, 10 Shannon Boyd, 11 Iosia Soliola, 12 Elliott Whitehead, 13 Josh Papalii. Interchange: 14 Emre Guler, 15 Junior Paulo, 16 Siliva Havili, 17 Luke Bateman.
South Sydney Rabbitohs: 1 Alex Johnston, 2 Campbell Graham, 3 Greg Inglis, 4 Dane Gagai, 5 Hymel Hunt, 6 Cody Walker, 7 Adam Reynolds, 8 Thomas Burgess, 9 Damien Cook, 10 George Burgess, 11 John Sutton, 12 Angus Crichton, 13 Sam Burgess. Interchange: 15 Cameron Murray, 16 Jason Clark, 17 Tevita Tatola, 19 Tyrell Fuimaono.