Jack Harbidge reviews the Round 21 clash as the Canberra Raiders host league leaders the Penrith Panthers at GIO Stadium…
Canberra Raiders 6
Tries: Josh Papalii (8)
Goals: Jamal Fogarty (10)
Penrith Panthers 26
Tries: Apisai Koroisau (11), Stephen Crichton (24), Dylan Edwards (45), Jaeman Salmon (64).
Goals: Stephen Crichton 5 (12, 21 – pen, 25, 46, 66)
MATCH REPORTEmbed from Getty Images
In part due to the raucous atmosphere at GIO Stadium and the intensity brought by both sides to the contest, the first exchanges of the half were loose and frantic, with numerous breaks in the opening five minutes. Once settled, the Raiders showed good signs in attack early but the most telling break of the early exchanges came off a kick return from Albert Hopoate. The young fullback shook off four tacklers to record a 50 metre run into the Penrith 30 metre zone, off the back of which the Raiders worked towards to the Penrith line to force a goal-line drop-out.
On the ensuing set, Josh Papalii crossed from close range and put the Raiders 6-0 up after a conversion from in front of the posts. Penrith, however, answered back almost immediately after Api Koroisau found a gap around the ruck to go over from short range after Elliot Whitehead surrendered the ball on second tackle after the kick-off. An easy conversion for Stephen Crichton made it all square with just over 10 minutes played.
The Panthers’ try was followed immediately by an error off the kick-off, in which Moses Leota couldn’t maintain grip of the ball under a powerful Raiders tackle. Characteristic of the start of the game, the Raiders threw the ball away and over the right touch-line straight off the back of the scrum, only for Crichton to knock on as soon as the Panthers got the ball back in an extremely embarrassing passage of play for both sides.
The Raiders pressed the Penrith line, soon knocked on again on the fifth tackle, and immediately gave away a penalty to reinforce the error and march the Panthers towards the halfway line. On the ensuing set, Penrith gave away an incorrect play-the-ball to turn the ball over to the Raiders swiftly, with the slippery conditions being somewhat to blame for the appalling lack of accuracy.
Rather predictably, the Raiders began their attack in the Penrith 20 metre zone and knocked on after a couple of passes. Penrith went close off the ensuing set with a bomb in the try zone, only to knock on after a scramble for the bouncing ball. Grant Atkins, however, adjudged a Penrith player to have been pushed off the ball and awarded a penalty in front of the sticks for Crichton to convert soon after.
The Raiders folded off the kick-off and allowed Penrith down the field with ease – on the back of which Sean O’Sullivan put in a deft reverse grubber for Crichton to score down the right hand side of the in-goal. Crichton converted his own try and the Panthers led by eight points.
Both sides cleaned up the errors and Canberra manufactured a sustained period of pressure in the final eight minutes of the half (off the back of a forceful high shot from James Fisher Harris that saw him sent to the bin), forcing a number of goal-line drop-outs through deft kicks landing in-goal on their possesssion.
The home side couldn’t make the pressure tell though: their sustained assault on the Penrith line ended with an error from Nick Cotric following an excellent defensive period from Penrith. Penrith then enjoyed a short period attacking the Raiders’ line just before the half-time break but couldn’t capitalise and went in to half-time 14-6 up.
On the final play of the first half, Dylan Edwards took a good shot from Jordan Rapana and appeared to have injured his shoulder but he came out firing in the second half. Following restoration to 13 men and a yellow to Nick Cotric for a high shot, Penrith put together neat shape down the left edge in midfield and broke for Edwards to get on the end of the move and cross in his milestone game.
Penrith appeared to be in full control for the following 10-minute period before Hudson Young went close and was held up over the line. Following that, Penrith continued to pressure as the Raiders had to start chasing the game.
Jaeman Salmon appeared to be in strife with an injury partway through the second half, but managed to stay on. His tough attitude paid off when he crossed off the back of shape down the Panthers’ right edge, putting Penrith 26-6 in the lead after a Crichton conversion.
The two sides traded sets following the try and the scoreline held despite both sides having try scoring opportunities.
The scoreline stayed at 26-6 with Penrith recording an impressive away win in the capital to go eight points ahead at the top of the league.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR POINTSEmbed from Getty Images
3 pts – Dylan Edwards (Panthers), 2 pts – Api Koroisau (Panthers), 1 pt – Albert Hopoate (Raiders)
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