A last minute try has ended the Canberra Raiders finals hopes, as the Manly Sea Eagles came away with a heart breaking 26-24 win in front of 13,113 at GIO Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Although they fought hard to keep their finals hopes alive, with the Green Machine overcoming a 16-8 half-time deficit to lead 24-16 at one stage, it was a last gasp run away try from Brett Stewart that ended the Green Machine’s run towards the finals with only two minutes left on the clock.
There were many highs and lows for the Raiders throughout the contest, including a 70 metre intercept try from Edrick Lee. However as the tale of how the 2015 season has gone for the Green Machine, it was their inability to close out games in the dying minutes which has ended their 2015 finals ambitions.
A repeat set inside the Raiders half saw the Manly Sea Eagles get off to a flying start scoring the first points inside the first five minutes.
Early in the tackle count the ball was shifted out to the left where Steve Matai exploited an overlap against the Green Machine and managed to dive into the left hand corner to open the scoring. With the tough sideline conversion successful from Jamie Lyon Manly were up 6-0.
As both sides traded penalties and attacking raids on each other’s try lines it was Manly who were able to score consecutively to further their lead.
Starting from the left side of the field the ball went out to Lyon on the right edge and a one on one missed tackle from his opposite number Jarrod Croker, saw the Manly Captain score just inside the corner post. With 13 minutes remaining in the first half the Sea Eagles were leading 10-0 following the unsuccessful conversion attempt from Lyon.
Unfortunately, the Sea eagles scored from the ensuing kick-off, travelling the length of the field to score and silence the Canberra crowd.
Justin Horo received an inside ball from Kieran Foran which allowed the back-rower to break a tackle to accelerate down field. Coming up fast on the inside was fullback Brett Stewart who received the pass inside and scored next to the uprights. Lyon’s conversion extended their out to 16-0.
As the last five minutes of the first half approached, it was a case déjà vu from from last week as a hard running forward opened up the scoring for the Green Machine.
As the Raiders were attacking close to the line, a short ball was delivered from Josh Hodgson onto a barnstorming Paul Vaughn who carried a Manly defender over the line to open the scoring for Canberra.
Croker converted the shot at goal from in front of the uprights and the Raiders were back in the contest 16-6.
As the siren sounded at GIO Stadium, Blake Austin was tackled without the ball giving Canberra a penalty 40 metres out from Manly’s try line.
Croker opted to take a shot at the penalty two points on offer and managed to split the uprights successfully meaning that Canberra went into half-time only trailing by eight points 16-8.
The second half started with Manly having all the possession, yet it was the Raiders who scored the crucial first points in the second 40 minutes.
The Sea Eagles again tried to exploit the left defence of Canberra, yet Edrick Lee intercepted the pass from Manly and raced 70 metres to score under the uprights. Croker again converted and it was a two point game with Manly leading 18-16.
With their tails up and making good metres up the middle Canberra were running the Manly defence ragged and points came at the end of the Raiders good work.
Sam Williams gave a short ball to Austin who stepped off his right foot and broke through the three tackles to score just next to the goal posts.
With 20 minutes left on the clock the Green Machine took the lead for the first time in the game, with Croker converting Canberra were in front 20-16.
As the later stages of the game approached, it was the Raiders who took the initiative and extended their lead through a bit of luck and some quick thinking.
Williams put a kick towards touch inside Manly’s half and just as Stewart assumed the ball would trickle over the sideline, it took a bounce in field. Quick thinking from Croker saw him pick up the loose ball and offload to Jarrad Kennedy who fell over the try line carrying a Sea Eagle defender.
Croker missed the conversion from the left sideline. With only 10 minutes remaining the Raiders were in front 24-16.
As if the game wasn’t tense enough, a penalty conceded by Canberra gave Manly good field position and Lyon made the Raiders pay.
Horo again made it close to the line but just before being called held, he managed an offload to the always dangerous Lyon who scored just inside the corner post. The conversion attempt was missed and Canberra held the lead 24-20.
With just two minutes remaining, Daly Cherry Evans received an offload and took off through the middle of Canberra’s forward pack. As he approached Jack Wighton, Stewart was again up in support and scored the match winning try for the Sea Eagles.
Lyon converted from in front as the siren sounded with coming away with a 26-24 win.