Match Report: Raiders sign off in style at GIO Stadium
For the last home game of 2015 the Canberra Raiders have come away with one of their best home performances of the season, downing the Penrith Panthers 34-18 in front of 6,717 at GIO Stadium on Monday night.
A near perfect first half performance, scoring 22 points to six set up the dominant victory from the Green Machine.
Sam Williams had the ball on a string, controlling the tempo of the game with his kicking, whilst his partner in crime Blake Austin and Jack Wighton at the back provided spark up the middle of the Panthers forward pack.
Despite having a poor home season record in 2015 it was the perfect send off for club stalwart David Shillington who is leaving the Raiders at the end of the season.
After withstanding a couple of attacking sets from the Panthers, whilst also managing to earn another repeat set of their own, it was the Raiders who hit the scoreboard first.
Williams opened the scoring with a fine individual line break, then Wighton helped create an overlap on the left edge and before combining with Edrick Lee and finding Jarrod Croker in support. Croker converted one from two and the Raiders were in front 10-0 after 16 minutes.
Canberra were at their attacking best and went about making sure the points kept piling on for their last home game of the season.
A move down the short side from Hodgson saw Jarrad Kennedy crash over the line for the Raiders third in just 22 minutes to create the 16-0 lead.
The video referee then confirmed Shaun Fensom the lock forward got the ball down under the posts to extend the lead out to 22-0 following Croker's conversion.
James Segeyaro ensured that Penrith weren’t out of the contest scoring the Panthers' first points through a sneaky dive from dummy half close to the line to cut the lead to 22-6.
As the siren sounded for half-time it ended what was almost the perfect first half for the Green Machine.
Great long and short range tries tagged alongside solid defence placed the Raiders in a good position for the second 40 minutes.
Both sides were sloppy with ball control early in the second half, and with Blake Austin leaving the filed with a shoulder injury the Raiders needed to up the ante if they wanted to hold onto the lead.
With Austin heading off injured the side could have been lacking some attacking flair, however Kurt Baptiste provided that spark off the bench.
Making a darting run from dummy half he took on the line and split a gap in Penrith’s goal line defence just under the uprights to extend Canberra’s lead back out to 22 points.
However, just as Canberra put on some points so did the Panthers, travelling the length of the field the cover defence from the Raiders couldn’t prevent an overlap which Lewis Brown took advantage of to make the score line 28-12.
Proving their ability to score from all lengths of the field, Canberra again went from defence straight into attack as Croker and Lee combined again to break downfield from their own goal line.
A one armed offload from Lee onto the support runner in Sisa Waqa saw then saw the flying Fijian run in untouched to score the Raiders sixth try of the night and to again put the lead out to 22 points, 34-12.
With the last five minutes of the game approaching, some individual brilliance from Panthers fullback Will Smith brought Canberra’s lead back to 34-18.