Crunch time for Ricky Stuart and his Raiders

Lachlan Roberts 19 March 2018

The Newcastle Knights heaped pressure on Ricky Stuart with a come from behind win at GIO Stadium on Sunday night. Photo: Supplied by Canberra Raiders.

For the second week in a row, the Raiders faded late in the game to give up their lead in the dying minutes. For the second week in a row, they lost a close match 30-28.

The Newcastle Knights heaped pressure on Ricky Stuart and his side with a come from behind win at GIO Stadium on Sunday night. In front of 12,626 fans, centre Sione Matautia capitalised on Josh Papalii’s incorrect play-the-ball and scored with six minutes remaining to seal the win.

The Raiders will now have to bounce back against a confident New Zealand Warriors outfit in what could be a season-defining match.

Last year, the Raiders lost eight games by six points or less in 2017. They’ve already added two more matches to that ever-growing list.

Their less than impressive start to the season could have a massive bearing on their end of season finish, with Stuart saying little pieces of play aren’t going the Raiders way.

“It’s about making sure we don’t lose all that effort and desire that’s there. It’s just not happening for us at the moment. There are little pieces of play that aren’t going our way at the moment,” Stuart said.

“I thought the boys played well. It’s frustrating, we sat in the same position last week and didn’t feel like we had leaked 30 points but at the end of the day, we have. I can’t question anyone’s effort,” captain Jarrod Croker said after the match.

Well if it isn’t a lack of effort, what is the reason behind the side conceding five tries per game in the past two weeks? In the last ten minutes of the match on Sunday night, the Raiders looked exhausted and off their feet.

Fans took to Twitter to share their frustration with the capitulation.

According to Stuart, the team will turn it around, “one hundred per cent”. But it remains to be seen how Stuart plans to do that.

The 2018 season is Stuart’s fifth year in charge, which will match the longest time he has spent at one club during his coaching career.

In Stuart’s first season at the Raiders, his side was the second-worst team in the competition. The following year, the team finished tenth which was only a minor improvement.

The giant leap to second on the ladder and being just one play away from the 2016 grand final has been the only finals appearance in Stuart’s reign. After last year’s myriad of close losses, the Canberra side dwelled in the bottom eight.

But two years on from the ‘success’ of 2016, crunch time has arrived for Stuart and his Raiders side, and they will have a lot to prove to their fans.

Where will the Raiders finish the 2018 season?

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