The Canberra Raiders NYC team has returned to form following last week’s heavy loss to the Warriors in New Zealand, defeating the Penrith Panthers 34-16 at GIO Stadium this afternoon.
It was a completely different match to the last time these two sides met, where the Raiders were on the end of a 42-12 hammering in Penrith.
Canberra came into the game with a host of changes following last week’s 54 point demolition at the hands of the Warriors last week in Auckland.
5 SG ball players came into the side, which proved a masterstroke from coach Mick Mantelli with the SG ball players scoring half of the sides 6 tries for the Raiders, and showing some great defensive prowess under pressure from the Panthers.
Canberra came close to breaking the deadlock after seven minutes when Dylan McGrath looked to have found Cleveland McGhie with a grubber, but he was offside from the kick.
The Panthers off the back of some repeat sets had the Raiders under pressure on their own line, but some strong Raiders defence managed to hold the Penrith out for three consecutive sets.
Penrith looked to have broken the deadlock after 13 minutes, but it was ruled that Brent Naden had lost the ball as he was stretching to score. Raider’s fullback Cronan forcing the error from the Panthers centre.
Canberra finally broke the scoring drought in the 15th minute after Captain Matthew Frawley grubbered behind the Panthers defensive line, and Lachlan Hurst was first to the ball scoring the first try for the match.
Patrick Mago couldn’t convert from the sideline leaving the scores at 4-0 after 16 minutes.
The match itself resembled a top grade NRL match in the first 20 minutes, with defence being particularly good from both sides, with just one try being scored in that period.
Lachlan Lewis showcased why he was so good for the Raiders SG Ball side this year, putting fellow debutant McGhie into a hole to score the 2nd try of the game.
Mago added the extras to take the Raiders out to a 10-0 lead after 24 minutes.
Canberra were in again after Logan Geyer couldn’t diffuse a difficult bomb under pressure from Hurst. Lachlan Croker was able to swoop on the loose ball and race away to score under the posts.
Mago converted the try to take the Raiders lead to 16-0 after 29 minutes.
Penrith finally managed to break the Raiders defence in the 32nd minute when half back Sam Scarlett dummied, and found the line under no real pressure. Corey Harawira added the extras to cut the Raiders lead to 10 just before half time.
It was short lived as the Panthers followed it up with a try, this time to Peter Tia-Tia. Harawira’s kicked was unsuccessful leaving the Raiders with a 16-10 lead heading into half time.
Tevita Pangai Junior restored the momentum right on halftime with a charging run to score next to the posts. Mago converted the try to give the Raiders a 22-10 lead at half time.
It was a messy start to the 2nd half with both sides making a few handling errors early. Naden made a good break down the sideline leaving the Raiders scrambling defensively. But again it was some great Raiders which was able to hold the Panthers out.
Croker stamped his authority on the game, breaking some flimsy Panthers defence before running 30 metres to score his 2nd try for the game. Mago added the extras to give the Raiders a 28-10 lead after 55 minutes.
The halves combination of Frawley and Lewis was working wonders for the Raiders, and a beautiful kick from Lewis looked to have found a 40/20, only for the replay to show Lewis had half his foot outside the 40 metre line.
Penrith were able to reduce the Raiders lead after front rower Antonio Pelasasa was able to pounce on a loose ball. Harawira added the extras to cut the Raiders lead to 28-16 with 12 minutes to go.
Moments later Pelasasa became the villain as he was placed on report for a high shoulder charge on Croker. Canberra’s pressure was vastly improved on recent performances.
It led to the Raiders icing the game when Pangai Junior played a nice cut out ball to Hurst who managed to grab himself double, and continue his great try scoring record this season. Mago missed the tough conversion from the sideline giving the Raiders a 32-16 lead with 5 minutes to go.
Canberra were awarded a penalty right in front of the posts with a minute to go, and decided to go with the unusual tactic of kicking a penalty despite being 16 points ahead. Mago converted the penalty to give the Raiders a comprehensive 34-16 victory.
It was a great team effort from the young side, with the great defence a highlight in the win. Croker was superb in the victory winning man of the match honours, but any of Frawley, Cronan, Lewis, Pangai Junior or Hurst would’ve been a worthy recipient.
The Raiders return to GIO Stadium Sunday to take on the Cowboys.
Canberra Raiders 34 defeated Penrith Panthers 16
Tries: Croker 2, Hurst 2, McGhie, Pangai Junior; Goals: Mago 5
Tries: Tia-Tia, Scarlett, Pelasasa; Goals: Harawira 2