The Canberra Raiders have kept their season alive in the best way possible thumping the Newcastle Knights 46-28.
With everything to play for and their final chance to impress in front of a home crowd, the Raiders left the best for last never looking like falling behind scoring two tries in just the opening eight minutes.
A hattrick from Jordan Rapana and a near perfect day off the kicking tee from Jarrod Croker all combined as the Raiders strung together one of their best performances all year.
With their finals dreams on the line the Raiders came out firing from the opening whistle.
Just four minutes into the match the Raiders busted through the Knights defence thanks to the strength of Junior Paulo.
Catch the a short ball on the line, Paulo carried multiple defenders over the line and showed enough strength to ground the ball despite carrying half of the Knights forward pack with him.
With the scores now 6-0 following Croker’s conversion, the Raiders wasted no time bagging another one.
Just three minutes later the Raiders found themselves on the attack again following a Joey Leilua line break.
Aidan Sezer guided a kick into the hands of teenage sensation Nick Cotric who batted the ball back for his captain Jarrod Croker who regathered the ball and planted it down in the corner.
The sideline conversion was unsuccessful to keep the score-line at 10-0 with just 10 minutes of game gone.
Clutching onto an early lead, the Raiders opted to build their advantage through penalty goals.
Two penalty’s right in front for a high tackle and a late shot on Aidan Sezer gifted the Raiders with four extra points after Croker made light work of the conversions.
With less than 20 minutes remaining in the half and now trailing 14-0, the Knights needed to find something to get back into the match.
After repeated sets on the Raiders line the Knights ran in two tries in just four minutes to get back into the match.
In the 27th minute Shaun Kenny Dowall capitalised on a slick backline play to put the ball down in the corner before Jamie Buhrer created enough space to stumble over the Raiders line backwards.
A quick pass from Danny Levi put Buhrer in a gaping hole as he spun around to catch the ball and crossed over the line backwards before grounding the ball.
With the scores now 20-10 and halftime quickly approaching the Raiders ramped had one last roll of the dice before the break.
A beautiful cut-out pass from Wighton was collected by Jordan Rapana who put the ball down untouched for one of the simplest tries the electric winger will score.
Following the conversion both sides returned to the dressing rooms for the half time address with the Knights trailing 26-10.
The opening 10 minutes of the second half swung the way of the visitors as the Knights launched succussive raids at Canberra’s line.
It took the shear size and strength of Jacob Saifiti to muscle his way to the line and ground the ball despite the best efforts of Joey Leluia.
But once again the Raiders wasted no time hitting back working their way down the field and executing a perfect backline play off the scrum.
Travelling through the hands of Sezer and Croker before Wighton once again got involved and put Rapana into open pasture who flew downfield 20 metres before bagging his second of the night.
Then with just over 13 minutes left to play, Leipana reared it’s deadly head as Rapana bagged another hattrick of tries scoring off a Joey Leluia pass before Croker’s conversion moved the Raiders up to a convincing 40-16 lead.
With the deficient now insurmountable and just under 10 minutes to play, the Knights struggled for motivation as the Raiders began to run riot over some un-committed defence.
A scrappy try to Blake Austin in the shadows of full time added salt to the wound for Knights fans before two late consultation tries to Mitchell Barnett and Kenny-Dowall gave the traveling fans something to cheer about.
The 46-28 victory keeps the Raiders finals ambitions alive as they prepare to travel up to Melbourne were they play the 1st placed Melbourne Storm in another do or die clash.