The Canberra Raiders have lost 16-14 to the South Sydney Rabbitohs in what was a tight contest at Bankwest Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
A first half hat-trick to Semi Valemi helped keep the Raiders in the match, yet a scoreless and defensively strong second half from both sides saw the Green Machine just miss out on the Jersey Flegg Cup.
The Raiders started off strong, scoring in the first minute of the match thanks to Valemei, who picked up a loose ball and acrobatically dived over for a try in the corner.
The Raiders were dealt a blow only three minutes later, as fullback Harley Smith-Shields was sent to the sin bin for a professional foul.
The Rabbitohs thought they got one back instantly, as winger Kane Allen tip-toed down the wing towards the try-line, however, put his foot out of bounds just before the line.
The scores would be levelled in the seventh minute of the match, as Rabbitohs captain Nicholas Mougios found a gap off the back of a scrum and scored in the corner.
Two minutes later South Sydney took the lead after Blake Taafe ducked and weaved through the Canberra defence before planting the ball down.
A spiralling kick from the Rabbitohs came down right in front of Smith-Shields, with the ball bouncing back into the hands of Taafe who sprinted over to score his second try of the game.
The Raiders got one back through Valemei, with halfback Joe Roberts throwing a lovely cut-out pass for his winger to go crashing over for his double.
Valemi completed his hat-trick with just two minutes remaining in the first half, after a chip from Toby Wescott bounced back into Raiders possession, with the ball making it’s way out to Valemi who gets it down in the corner.
A missed conversion from Westcott on the siren meant the Green Machine went into the sheds just two points behind.
Twelve minutes into the second half, Valemi almost scored his fourth try, with a beautiful kick from Lachlan Lewis just escaping his reach in the goal area and dribbling out of bounds.
Manase Kaho also thought he got the Raiders back in front, with the winger almost cartwheeling his way over the try line however put a foot in touch in the build-up.
Both sides continued to put in impressive defensive sets, with many chances going begging.
With one second remaining, the Rabbitohs threw the ball out of play to end the match, however, a penalty was awarded to the Raiders instead 33 metres from the goal posts.
Westcott’s penalty conversion attempt just dragged wide of the post, ending the game and giving the Rabbitohs a narrow two-point victory over the Raiders.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 16 (Tries: 2 Taafe, Mougios. Goals: Taafe 2/3) def.
Canberra Raiders 14 (Tries: 3 Valemei. Goals: Wescott 1/4)