Returning Raiders halves make instant impact
The return of Aidan Sezer and Blake Austin in the halves proved the difference as the Raiders ran out comfortable 22-8 winners over the Bulldogs at Belmore Sports Ground on Monday night.
Austin (knee) and Sezer (cheekbone) returned earlier than expected after missing the previous three weeks following injuries suffered in the Round 1 win over Penrith.
The Raiders halves looked comfortable in what was just their second NRL game as a pairing, preferring to play a more measured game given the greasy conditions.
Both Austin and Sezer finished with virtually identical stats. The Canberra No.6 ran for 46 metres and made 18 tackles, while the Raiders halfback managed 39 metres and 17 tackles.
The booming left boot of Sezer proved crucial in a game that was played in wet conditions for the most part, finishing with 357 metres from 14 kicks.
He also played a key role in the game's first try by putting Josh Papalii into a yawning gap before the Queensland Maroons back-rower linked up with Jarrod Croker to score next to the posts.
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart said the pair handled their first game back for the Green machine with aplomb, but was also quick to pay tribute to the efforts of the rest of his young squad.
"They did well considering the fact it was very, very physical," the Raiders coach said after the game.
"It was tough conditions and it was their first game back after a four week layoff. They came back and handled the 80 minutes well, so it's a credit to how they've trained and prepared.
"I'm excited with our development as a club. If I was sitting here now and we'd been beaten, I'd have said the same thing. It's still very early in the season."
Raiders skipper Croker was equally impressed by the performance of his halves pairing, most notably their kicking game.
He also had high praise for the likes of Sam Williams who filled in while Austin and Sezer were injured, leading the Raiders to their best start to a season in over a decade.
"It was tough conditions in the wet and I thought they controlled the game pretty well and kicked really well," Croker said.
"I've got to give credit to Sammy Williams and Brenko Lee and guys like that who went back and played their role and played well again for the Mounties on the weekend. Guys like that help our squad and make it stronger."
Croker also spoke highly of Joey Leilua who dominated his battle in the centres against NSW Blues star Josh Morris.
"He handled him quite well. It was tough conditions out there attacking wise, so it probably took a lot out of the game," he said.
"It was good to have 'BJ' [Leilua] back as well, and like 'Stick' said, to have a full roster to pick from it makes our squad stronger."
This article first appeared on NRL.com
CLICK HERE to read the match report.
CLICK HERE for the team song.
CLICK HERE for the match highlights.
CLICK HERE for the press conference.