It’s happened before. A big game decision goes against the Raiders resulting in a dramatic momentum shift.
When playing Cronulla in Round 27, the game was evenly poised with the Sharks leading 10-6 when Raiders back Sebastian Kris was sent off for a dangerous tackle.
That was in the 59th minute.
After the send-off, the Sharks ran in three unanswered tries in the 24-6 victory.
In Sunday’s elimination game, the Raiders were leading 16-6 when Knights five-eighth Tyson Gamble alleged that Jack Wighton bit him.
That was in the 46th minute.
Although the Raiders maintained possession with Wighton placed on report, there was a sense that the allegation and the subsequent on-field deliberation appeared to take the wind out of Canberra’s sails.
The scoreboard backs up this observation.
From the 47th minute until the 62nd minute, Newcastle scored four unanswered tries to race to a seemingly unassailable 28-16 lead.
That the Raiders were able to compose themselves and level the scores at 28-all is testament to the spirit and ‘never say die’ attitude within the playing group.
There is a sense, though, of what might have been.
In the minds of many Raiders supporters, it brought back painful memories of the 2019 Grand Final when referee Ben Cummins controversially overturned his own six-again ruling and Wighton was caught on the last tackle.
The decision dramatically changed the momentum of the game. At the time, the scores were locked at 8-all with Canberra on the attack.
From the resulting set following the changeover, Roosters fullback James Tedesco crossed the line at the other end of the field. The try was converted and the 14-8 score remained such through to full-time.
Sunday’s loss to Newcastle won’t resonate to the same level for Raiders fans as the 2019 Grand Final, but at the moment, it is a stark reminder of how quickly momentum can shift.
Despite the loss, the first half was possibly the best football the Raiders have played all season. They showed grit and determination. For Raiders fans, the game showed the team at its very best.