There was a lot of hype surrounding the Canberra Raiders after their hot start to the season. However, the Canberrans were brought back down to earth on Sunday afternoon when they were defeated 34-18 by the still undefeated Newcastle Knights at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.
You could sense it was not the Raiders’ afternoon when they made numerous errors in the opening 40 minutes and couldn’t recover.
Jack Wighton produced a magnificent athletic effort to score the Raiders’ only try in the opening stanza. Nick Cotric and Josh Papalii then went back-to-back in quick succession to raise a few eyebrows, but the Knights did well to put an end to the team’s momentum in short order.
The Knights put forward a solid 80 minutes that should have them in and around the premiership conversation.
While it was not a memorable afternoon for the Raiders, halfback George Williams backed up his impressive showing against the Melbourne Storm to provide try assists for each of the three four-pointers in Campbelltown.
Nevertheless, the Raiders looked a shadow of the forceful squad that limited their first three opponents this campaign to just six points each. Their defence looked shaky all night and you could sense the 2019 competition runners up weren’t themselves when Knights centre Bradman Best crashed over for the first try of the match in the early goings.
Adam O’Brien’s game plan against the green machine looked pretty straight forward when Mitchell Pierce, Kurt Mann and Kalyn Ponga all elected to punt the ball high and put the Raiders under pressure for the majority of the contest and that approach resulted in a few errors from their opposition.
For the first time in 2020, Stuart’s men weren’t potent in attack. Their kicking game really let them down as well – Wighton’s first kick of the afternoon went out on the full.
Substitute Jordan Rapana entered in the second half after Wighton copped a head knock and if you watched closely, it seemed there was no structure set in place with him on the field. This was showcased when Elliott Whitehead tried throwing a pass down the outside but it ended up bouncing off the Kiwi’s chest.
So much for calling the Raiders early favourites for the premiership this season last week. We should assume, though that this is a minor set back in a season we should forward to with confidence.
Despite putting forward a reasonably poor performance, the Raiders still boast a 3-1 record.
Expect a strong bounce-back when they come up against the West Tigers next Saturday (13 June).
Raiders 18-34 Knights
Raiders tries: Wighton, Cotric, Papalii. Conversions: Croker (3).
Knights tries: Lee 2, Best 2, Kalyn Ponga, penalty try. Conversions: Ponga (4), Hoy.
Raiders: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 2. Bailey Simonsson, 3. Jarrod Croker (C), 4. Curtis Scott, 5. Nick Cotric, 6. Jack Wighton
7. George Williams, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Josh Hodgson (C), 10. Dunamis Lui, 11. Joe Tapine, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Corey Horsburgh.
Substitutes: 14. Siliva Havili, 15. Emre Guler, 16. Sia Soliola, 17. Jordan Rapana.
Knights: 1. Kalyn Ponga, 2. Edrick Lee, 3. Enari Tuala, 4. Bradman Best, 5. Hymel Hunt, 6. Kurt Mann, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. David Klemmer, 9. Andrew McCullough, 10. Daniel Saifiti, 11. Aidan Guerra, 12. Sione Mata’utia, 13. Herman Ese’ese.
Substitutes: 14. Tex Hoy, 15. Jacob Saifiti, 16. Tim Glasby, 17. Brodie Jones.