Report by Michael Schirripa
The Canberra Raiders Under 20’s maintained their lead at the summit of the competition with a 28-22 victory over the Woden Valley Rams at Phillip Oval.
After suffering their first defeat of the season last week against the Gungahlin Bulls, the Raiders had to hold off a late surge from a 12-men Rams side as they held on for the win.
After a physical opening five minutes, the Raiders were first to score, some razzle-dazzle play on the right edge led to halfback Jordan Williams scoring untouched. The subsequent conversion was unsuccessful, as the score remained at 4-0.
The Rams gave away a penalty deep inside their own half late in the tackle count and the Raiders capitalised, Williams gave a crisp short ball to Titiuti, who planted the ball under the posts. Temple Rupapera added the extras from in front which gave his side a 10-0 lead.
The game was temporarily delayed after Lachlan Lewis was escorted from the field with a suspected knee injury, moments later Rams half Tyler Jones was also taken off with a hand injury.
With under a minute remaining in the first quarter, the Rams were able to hit back, a beautiful chip chase down the right edge landed in the lap of Daniel Desmet, who ran away to score adjacent to the posts. Brayden Robertson added the two points from in front as the Rams got themselves within a try as the sides headed into the first break.
The Rams picked up where they left off from after the break, Robertson split through the defence and linked up with his fullback Daine Spencer who crossed after an acrobatic effort in the corner. Robertson was unable to convert from the right touchline and the scores remained level at 10-10.
The Raiders thought they had hit the front after Mitch Souter crossed under the posts after an error from Woden, but the final pass was ruled forward.
A penalty for a dangerous tackle gave the Raiders another opportunity for the lead, but Gordon Whippy made an error which gave the Rams an opportunity to work it out from their own red zone.
An error in the subsequent play from Woden proved costly, the Raiders finally regained the lead as Caleb Esra forced his way over to score in the corner. The conversion was waived away as the Raiders had a four-point lead just six minutes shy of halftime.
The scores would remain heading into the break, with the Raiders holding a slender lead after a see-sawing half of rugby league.
The Raiders were gifted field position inside the Rams half after a kick out on the full, they would end up punishing Woden as Thomas Croker showed too much speed on the left-hand side as he scored in the corner. Rupapera was not able to convert from the sideline and the score remained 18-10.
After surviving multiple raids on their try line, the Rams marched down field through a penalty where they almost scored but the Raiders were able to survive the scare and were gifted a 20-metre restart.
The Raiders would continue their try scoring tyrant, centre Brigham Moeakiola found space down the left flank and beat his opposite centre on the outside to score. The conversion was again unsuccessful, as the Raiders boasted a two converted try lead.
A tough afternoon got even harder for the Rams as their lock Steven Ferry was sent-off by referee James Gould for a late shot after a kick on Raiders halfback Williams.
Canberra continued to pile misery on the 12-men Rams, Gordon Whippy bumped off three would-be tackles and forced his way over. The conversion was knocked over the black dot as the Raiders headed into the final quarter with a 28-10 lead.
The Rams were first to score in the final quarter, as they capitalised on some broken Raiders defence, winger Stephen Henderson was the beneficiary of a long ball and crossed over untouched. The conversion was unsuccessful, and the score remained at 28-14.
After seeming dead and buried heading into the final quarter, the Rams had their second try in consecutive minutes after Robertson through a looping pass to his winger Scott Swanson who scored in the corner. The kick from out wide was waived away but the Rams had a glimmer of hope heading into the final six minutes.
In remarkable circumstances, the Rams had their third successive try and it was well and truly game on, a chip and chase from Robertson who linked with Spencer led to Brandon Donnelly scoring. Another unsuccessful kick meant the Rams would have to settle to be within a converted try at 28-22.
The Raiders survived an almighty scare after a grubber from the Rams almost fell into the hands of Swanson, but Manase Kaho bravely put his body on the line to defuse the situation.
Kaho was unfortunately knocked-out cold much to the concern of everybody at Phillip Oval, but he was able to walk off the field assisted with the trainers, much to the relief of everyone in attendance.
The Raiders were able to hold on as they kept their four point lead on top of the competition in tact.