The Canberra Raiders have gone down in a hard fought game against the Penrith Panthers 26-20 at GIO Stadium this afternoon.
With pressure mounting on the Raiders after heavy losses in their previous two matches, they were keen to put on a good performance in front of their home crowd, the Canberra faithful weren’t left waiting long.
After some nice second phase play Jack Wighton was able to make a break down the wing and find an unmarked Reece Robinson who was able to score on the first set of the game. Jarrod Croker added the extras and the Raiders were 6-0 up after just one minute of play.
They weren’t able to relax for long with the Panthers taking advantage of their first opportunity, showing a clean pair of hands ending in a David Simmons try. Soward couldn’t convert the extras, so the Raiders still led 6-4 after seven minutes.
A Penrith error inside their 20 gifted the Raiders the perfect attacking opportunity. But some scrappy play from the Raiders ended in Wighton poking a kick into touch.
Josh Papalii made some good metres before losing the ball, Penrith made the Raiders pay for the error when Peter Wallace kicked across field to find an unmarked Josh Mansour on the wing. Soward this time converted the try to give the Panthers a 10-6 lead after 17 minutes.
Penrith was in again this time full back Matt Moylan the try scorer for the Panthers. Soward was having an off day with the boot and missed the conversion to leave the Panthers with a 14-6 lead after 22 minutes.
The Wighton-Robinson combo was proving fruitful for the Raiders, with Wighton again able to find Robinson in some space, and ‘Reece Lightning’ was able to brush off Soward and Jamal Idris on his way to the line.
Croker was laser like from the sideline and despite scoring one try less the Raiders were only down 14-12 with 13 minutes to go in the first half.
Canberra took the lead back moments later after some slick handling from Anthony Milford gave Croker enough space to skip past Moylan and give the Raiders back the lead. He missed the conversion, but the Raiders held the 16-14 lead with 31 minutes gone.
Terry Campese gave the Raiders back to back sets after he put up a nightmare of a bomb, Moylan struggled to deal with it before batting it back past the dead ball line. Unfortunately in the next set a Campese forward pass let the Panthers off the hook.
It was a good fight back from the Raiders who looked like being blown away early, to holding a 16-14 lead at half time.
Papalii was keen to stake his claim for Origin selection chewing through 10 runs for 70 metres in the first half, Shaun Fensom was also getting through his usual workload with 24 tackles and 6 runs for 50 metres.
James Segeyaro made a break on the Panthers first set of the 2nd half. With the Panthers going 60 metres in two tackles the Raiders were at 6’s and 7’s defending their own line. Segeyaro finished off what he started dummying Campese before diving over to wrestle back the lead for the Panthers.
Soward converted the try to give the Panthers a 20-16 lead after 47 minutes.
Penrith continued their dominance after half time, with Simmons getting his 2nd try of the game. A fight erupted after some niggle between Segeyaro and Fensom. Soward having to wait a while to kick his conversion nailed it, and Penrith took a 26-16 lead with 28 minutes to go.
Canberra were gifted the perfect opportunity to hit back after a cross field Buttriss kicked looked destined for a change over. Before a creative play from Jarrad Kennedy saw the Raiders get a repeat set at the Panthers line.
Fensom looked to have hit back for the Raiders, but a moment earlier in the play led to Segeyaro being pushed down by David Shillington and Segeyaro being put on report for a forearm to Shillington’s face in the tackle.
Play was brought back and Canberra got the penalty but they were unable to make the most of it, with an error after multiple sets on the Panthers line. Canberra were again their own worst enemy a few sets later, this time Wighton looked like he was going to score, only to drop it before the line.
A nice defensive set followed by a good attacking one, ended in the Raiders getting repeat sets after Buttriss was able to put enough pressure on Moylan to kick it dead.
Penrith again held out but on the first tackle of their own set Idris threw a loose pass which was picked up by the Raiders. Placing more pressure on the Panthers defence to hold out.
Anthony Milford again showed his class when it looked like he was going to be bundled out, only to reach out and score in the corner. Robinson missed the conversion to leave the Panthers with a 26-20 lead with 7 minutes to go.
It was the final score of the match in what was a disappointing loss for the Raiders, in the end their inability to make the most of good field position was the undoing in the loss.
Shaun Fensom was a shining light in the loss, laying 49 tackles and making 13 runs for a total gain of 107 metres to be named man of the match.
The performance was a vast improvement on the last two games and there were plenty of positives to take out of the game despite the loss. Canberra returns to GIO Stadium next Sunday to take on the Cowboys from 3:00pm.
Penrith Panthers 26 defeated Canberra Raiders 20
Tries: Robinson 2, Croker, Milford; Goals: Croker 2
Tries: Simmons 2, Mansour, Moylan, Segeyaro; Goals: Soward 3