The Canberra Raiders showed signs of what’s to come in 2016 with a blistering first half performance, to win 34-28 in their only pre-season trial match against the Newcastle Knights in Orange.
The Green Machine scored six tries in the opening forty minutes of the game conceding just one to race out to a 34-6 lead, with Coach Ricky Stuart using the second half to rest most of his frontline stars and give younger players an opportunity to perform.
New recruits Aidan Sezer and Elliott Whitehead were strong performers in their first matches for the club, while Joey Leilua looked to have shaken off an average 2015 to give Raiders fans a taste of what’s to come from him in the 2016 season.
A dominant opening half was full of highlights for Canberra faithful, as the Raiders opened the scoring through Jordan Rapana on the right wing, following some lovely footwork and lead-up play from Leilua.
They were in again soon after when Shannon Boyd crashed over close to the line from a Josh Hodgson pass and they had their third after 17 minutes Sisa Waqa found himself on the end of a silky backline movement.
At 16-0 Raiders Coach Ricky Stuart would have liked what he was seeing and he would have liked a lot more soon after, when Rapana crossed for his double after Elliott Whitehead showed lovely skill to collect a ricochet from a Sam Williams kick to set up the try.
Josh Papalii got himself into the action when he found space from a short Aidan Sezer pass, before Leilua lit up Wade Park with some dazzling footwork to score a superb solo try from 40m out. The Samoan international scooped the ball from dummy half before exploding through the Knights defence to score and make it 34-0.
A try to the Knights as they approached halftime was the only blemish for the Raiders in what was a near perfect half of football.
The Raiders used the second half to give the rest of their squad an opportunity to take the field, with Kurt Baptiste, Jeff Lima, Luke Bateman and Mitch Barnett all showing that they’ll be pushing hard for selection early in the season.
With more possession and better ball control the Knights scored all of the second half points, with the match ending with the score line at 34-28.
CANBERRA RAIDERS 34 (Rapana 2, Boyd, Waqa, Papalii, Leilua Tries; Jarrod Croker 5 goals) defeated NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS 28 (Feeney, Fitzgibbon, Uate, C Mata’utia, Lamb tries; Hodkinson 3, Lamb 1 goals) at Wade Park.