The Canberra Raiders have completed their fly-in-fly-out mission with a 14-12 win over the North Queensland Cowboys in a physical encounter in Townsville.
Ricky Stuart’s men were able to maintain their halftime lead with the returning John Bateman and Curtis Scott playing big parts, as the Raiders capped off the 2000-kilometre road trip with a win as they edge closer towards the top four.
An early error from Jack Wighton after diving on a loose ball gave the Cowboys an early chance in the Raiders half of the field.
The Cowboys were able to take advantage of the gifted field position and struck first blood through hooker Reece Robson who crossed over in the third minute.
The Raiders struggled to get out of their own half and made some simple errors in the process.
After facing immense pressure from the Cowboys, the Raiders finally had a chance to attack in opposition half through a 20-metre restart.
The Raiders were unable to capitalise on the field position and gave away penalty on the final play of the set for offside on the kick chase.
After spending most of the game with their backs against the wall, the Raiders finally hit back, and they did it in style.
A play deep inside their own half on the right-hand edge led to the ball going through the hands of John Bateman and Curtis Scott who found Nick Cotric, who ran down field and linked with an unmarked George Williams who raced away for a classic try.
After forcing a drop out, the Cowboys had a chance on the Raiders line to hit the lead 10 minutes before halftime, but they were unable to crack the green brick wall.
An error from Jason Taumalolo inside his own half gave the Raiders possession in good field position and they were able to force a repeat set.
The subsequent dropout was kicked out on the full by Kyle Feldt which allowed the Green Machine to hit the lead courtesy of Jarrod Croker’s left boot as he nailed a penalty goal from in front.
Canberra would head to the sheds for a well-deserved rest with a slender 8-6 lead after a physical half in humid conditions.
The Cowboys started the half applying plenty of pressure on the Raiders and had a full set inside the opposition red zone, but Josh Papalii came up with a strip to relieve the pressure.
Ricky Stuart looked for a re-shuffle, Semi Valemi was substituted for Corey Harawira-Naera who came on for his Raiders debut, Elliot Whitehead shifted to left centre and Croker slotted to the wing.
A strip from Cowboys forward Mitch Dunn handed his side an opportunity to hit the front and they were able to capitalise. Taumalolo sliced through some flimsy Raiders defence and scored under the post to hand the Cowboys the lead with 27 minutes remaining.
A six to go call just inside the Cowboys half gave the Raiders a chance for an immediate strike back and they would not be denied. Bateman continued his assault down the right side and found Scott who scored in the corner. Croker would nail the conversion from the sideline to give his side the lead.
The Raiders were rolling down the field with some big runs from the back three coming out of their own half and continued to pepper the North Queensland defensive line.
An error from the Cowboys inside their own 10 minutes from a scrum gifted the Raiders a chance to extend their lead, but an error from Harawira-Naera ended their pursuit.
The Cowboys had the next opportunity of the game and forced a repeat set, but the Rapana was able to clean up a grubber on his own line.
North Queensland thought they were about to level the scores with a penalty goal in front, but Croker successfully challenged the call as Dunamis Lui was rightfully ruled to be onside while cleaning up a kick.
The Raiders continued to assault the Cowboys line, but a try saving strip from Feldt on Croker kept his side in the game with under five minutes to go.
The Cowboys marched down the field and threw plenty at the Raiders defensive line, but the final kick landed in the hands of Hudson Young.
The Raiders survived one final raid inside their own half as they were able to claim a gutsy win in unfamiliar conditions.