Jack Wighton scored two tries as the Canberra Raiders defeated the North Queensland Cowboys 26-12.
The Raiders were tenacious in defence against a Cowboys side missing their Origin stars, in what was an 80-minute performance by the men in green.
The Raiders didn’t waste any time getting on the scoreboard when Jack Wighton crossed over the line in the second minute of the game.
A high kick was knocked on by Antonio Winterstein, which gifted the Raiders a set of six only twenty meters from North Queensland’s line. Shifting the ball from right to left, the Raiders appeared to have an overlap, but the Raiders fullback ran through the Cowboys’ sliding defence to score.
The Cowboys hit back when Coen Hess leapt high to snatch Coote’s wonderfully placed kick out of the air. With Johnathan Thurston out of the side, Ethan Lowe was given goal kicking duties, and he made no mistake to level the scores.
The Raiders regained their lead when Sezer’s grubber rebounded off the posts into the grateful arms of Josh Hodgson. Croker made no mistake from the tee from in front of the posts. Minutes later the captain kicked a penalty from a similar position after Lowe was penalised for holding on too long in a tackle.
On the verge of halftime, the Cowboys looked to score when halfback Ray Thompson broke through the Raiders line. With only Wighton left to beat, the Raiders fullback sent the halfback to the turf with a massive hit to ensure the Raiders maintained their 14-6 lead at the break.
Former Raiders’ junior Josh Chudleigh sprinted out of dummy half and weaved his way through the Raiders defence to reduce Canberra’s lead by two points.
Canberra remained determined and piled the pressure on the Cowboys after consecutive penalties were followed up for a deft Sezer grubber which forced a line drop out. The Raiders made the pressure count when Jack Wighton ran over the top of two defenders to score his second try of the match.
Croker was unable to convert the try from near the touchline but successfully kicked a penalty to ensure the Raiders led by more than a converted try.
Wighton continued to enjoy arguably his best game of the season with a monstrous tackle on Jake Granville. The Cowboys rake looked certain to score when we broke the line and had a teammate supporting on the outside, but the Raiders fullback sent Granville to the floor.
The reigning premiers continued to attack and had a chance sent to the bunker 15 minutes from the siren, but Ray Thompson lost the ball forward.
The Raiders then had a chance of their own when Kurt Baptiste darted from dummy half. Referee Grant Atkins sent the decision to the bunker, but the utility was judged to be held up short of the line.
Halfback Aidan Sezer, danced his way through the Cowboys’ line to wrap up the victory with five minutes remaining. Croker kicked the simple conversion to give the Raiders a 26-12 victory.
Raiders 26 (Tries: 2 Wighton, Hodgson, Sezer, Conversions: Croker 3/4 Penalties: Croker 2/2) defeated Cowboys (Tries: Hess, Chudleigh, Conversions: Lowe 2/2)