The Canberra Raiders have gone down to the Canterbury Bulldogs 22-14 on a chilly Friday night at GIO Stadium.
Canberra was coming off a bye and with Friday night football back in Canberra and a night celebrating the anniversary of the 1994 premiership winning Canberra side, the Raiders were keen to put their best performance forward.
Unfortunately for the Raiders they were unable to reproduce the efforts of the great 1994 premiership side, going down in an at times spiteful encounter.
Following some team changes Brenko Lee came into the Raiders side to make his NRL debut, and they got the perfect start when Jarrod Croker was able to barge his way over a trio of Bulldogs to score the first try of the game.
Croker converted his own try to give the Raiders a 6-0 lead after eight minutes. On the next set Croker broke down the short side before losing the ball forward trying to offload it to Reece Robinson.
An error 10 metres out gifted the Bulldogs the perfect opportunity to score and a well-executed play led to a try to Drury Low in the corner. NSW Origin hero Trent Hodkinson missed from the sideline to leave the Raiders with a tight 6-4 lead after 17 minutes.
A kick that ricocheted off the post gave the Raiders repeat sets at the Bulldog’s line as Josh Reynolds was thrown into touch by Terry Campese and Reece Robinson. After a weight of possession the Raiders opted to kick the penalty.
Croker converted the penalty to extend the Raiders lead leaving the scores at 8-4 after 25 minutes. Scores would’ve been level moments later if not for a Mitch Brown forward pass. As Corey Thompson looked to have scored unmarked in the corner only for the referee to rule the pas forward.
After three consecutive sets the Bulldogs were finally able to get past a scrambling Raiders defence. With Thompson unable to be denied as he scored in the corner. Hodkinson converted the try to give the Bulldogs their first lead of the game 10-8 with five minutes to half time.
Josh Reynolds dropped the ball off the kick off, however Joel Edwards wasn’t able to handle a Campese ball close to the line and the chance was gone. Reynolds then kicked a 40/20, and again the Bulldogs were able to work it wide with Low again scoring in the corner.
Hodkinson missed the conversion leaving the Bulldogs with a one try advantage a minute out from half time. The ball was proving difficult to handle as the Raiders gained the ball off the kick off only to drop it the first play of the next set.
It was a tightly contested first half and despite the Bulldogs scoring two extra tries they found themselves leading by just six points thanks to the errant boot of Hodkinson.
Anthony Milford who started the game on the bench was substituted into the game in the 45th minute for Campese who went straight into the rooms with what appeared to be a knee complaint.
A tentative start to the second half was broken when Robinson was looking to return a kick and get in the field of play. But he was caught in goals and in the effort of getting the ball back into the play he lost it and Tim Lafai simply put his hand on the ball to score the try.
Hodkinson converted the try to give the Bulldogs a 20-8 lead after 52 minutes.
Campese was able to make his way back out onto the ground as Buttriss found his way to the bench. Canberra were unable to make a weight of possession at the Bulldogs’ line count as they simply tried to much, and the error came 15 from the try line.
A penalty was awarded to the Raiders when Croker was taken out under the high ball. Again the Raiders couldn’t make the most of the opportunity with a pass going astray.
Greg Eastwood then broke the Raiders’ line to hand the momentum straight back to the Bulldogs. They were then awarded a penalty and decided to go for the shot at goal but after Michael Ennis had already tapped the ball.
The penalty was successful from Hodkinson who gave the Bulldogs a 22-8 lead with 13 minutes to go.
Campese was able to grubber for Milford who was able to gather the ball giving the Raiders life with six minutes to go. Croker converted the try to bring the Bulldogs’ lead back to eight points.
Unfortunately for the Raiders they were unable to get anything going with tempers flaring between the two sides late in the game with the final score staying at 22-14 the Bulldogs way.
It was a game of what ifs again for the Raiders who had plenty of chances to put points on the board, but again they were left wanting as they were unable to capitalise when it mattered most.
The loss is the third in a row for the Canberra side who will be desperate for a win when they travel to Campbelltown Stadium next week to take on the Wests Tigers.
Canterbury Bulldogs 22
Tries: Low 2, Thompson, Lafai; Hodkinson 3 Goals
Canberra Raiders 14
Tries: Croker, Milford; Croker 3 Goals