The Canberra Raiders have kicked their junior representative seasons off to a spectacular start by defeating the Canterbury Bulldogs at Belmore Oval in both the Harold Matthews and SG Ball.
Harold Matthews (Under 16s)
The Raiders Harold Matthews side overcame a significant size disadvantage to dispose of the Bulldogs 20-10 in Round 1 of the 2014 season.
The Bulldogs forward pack is one of the biggest in the completion and featured three Australian Under 15 players however this did not intimidate the courageous Canberra pack of forwards one iota as every member stood up to be counted for in defence.
They were ably assisted by the Raiders’ talented outside backs, namely Nic Cotric, Bayley Simonsson and Jed Simibiken, who helped their forwards out significantly with their scything runs out of dummy half.
With their forwards fresh and firing, it was Canterbury though who opened the scoring and they extended this lead to 10-4 when the half-time whistle was sounded.
“It was a very tight first half with both teams having chances but we lacked a bit of execution early in the game in attack. The boys defence was outstanding though,” Coach Adam Kyle said.
“The Bulldogs were very similar to their NRL squad with a big forward pack and quick backs but our boys just kept at them and pressured them in defence forcing a few turnovers in wet conditions.
“Once we got in at halftime we addressed a few points to help gain momentum and once we started to play fast around the middle we capitalised on possession.”
Canberra’s defence held solid in the second stanza restricting the Bulldogs from scoring any further points whilst the well-oiled Green Machine backline and hooker Sam Finnegan, added a further three tries.
The side has no problem scoring points however it was the defensive effort and professionalism on the road that Kyle was most proud of.
“We really focused on our defence over the pre-season and trial games,” Kyle said. We felt that if we can pressure teams with high attitude and good technique then that that would be a massive help.
“It was a great challenge for the boys to come up against such a good team in Round 1. It's a good start for the team, we know that it's going to get a lot tougher as the season goes on but if we keep training hard and learning as a group we will keep getting better.”
Canberra Raiders 20 (Jed Simbiken (2), Sam Finnegan, Bailey Simonsson tries, Lachlan Cooper 2 goals) def Canterbury Bulldogs 10
SG Ball (Under 18s)
The speed and fitness of the Raiders’ SG Ball side were the telling factors as they trumped a massive Bulldogs outfit 24-16.
Like their Harold Matthews counterparts, Canberra’s SG Ball line-up gave away a distinct size disadvantage to the Bulldogs but made up for this with superior tactical nous and competitive spirit.
In greasy conditions, the Bulldogs hit the lead early through their monstrous forward pack before the Raiders hit back with two tries of their own to level scores at 10 points apiece at halftime.
“It was a pretty scrappy first half in greasy conditions,” Coach Peter Marrapodi said. “We gave them too many opportunities early and they were able to crash over with their big forwards. We clawed back into the contest and in the end our fitness proved the difference.
“They had some big boys as most Western Sydney teams tend to have but we were able to use it to our advantage and our speed through the middle of the ruck was really effective in turning the game our way.”
Canberra’s young chargers implemented Marrapodi’s words of wisdom from halftime and rallied in the second half tremendously to gain ascendency over Canterbury. The Green Machine won the second stanza 14-6 to seal a hard-fought victory away from home.
“It was a great relief to get a win on the road,” Marrapodi said. “Our first three games are away and in a shortened season you really need to get off to a good start. If we don’t get these away wins, our season could be over before we get a home game.
Whilst pleased with the opening round win over a formidable opponent, Marropodi concedes that there is still plenty of work to be done at training.
“Our execution was very poor and we made a lot of errors. We will have to work hard over the coming weeks if we are to be premiership contenders.
“I was impressed with the grit we showed in defence after giving them opportunities through our errors and with the speed at which we are able to attack.
While the side is littered with a handful of players who played SG Ball last year, Marrapodi was most pleased with the efforts of two inexperienced members of the team.
“I was happy with the efforts from Ben Mcquire and Daniel Dole. They were both playing their first SG Ball games and although they still have a lot to learn they showed they have the work ethic and natural ability to succeed at this level.”
Canberra Raiders 24 (Lachlan Croker, Jack Williams, Thomas Cronan, Charlie MacKenzie, Ben Maguire tries, Chris Hart 2 goals) Canterbury Bulldogs 16
*The Harold Matthews and SG Ball teams take on the Central Coast next Saturday away from home.