The Canberra Raiders ended their first hit out of the preseason on Saturday afternoon (29 February) with a tough 12-10 victory over the Canterbury Bulldogs in Port Macquarie.
The Bulldogs’ hot start to the encounter was rewarded with a 10-0 lead in the first nine minutes, but the Raiders shook off the cobwebs to come back, with tries from Jack Wighton and Sam Williams helping the green machine back to within a single conversion.
Stuart will be impressed with the defensive effort his side displayed, not letting the Bulldogs score a single point for the next 71 minutes, while fans will be pleased to see minutes on the board for halfback George Williams and centre Curtis Scott after the pair made their Raiders debuts.
Out of the 26 players Ricky Stuart elected to take with him to Port Macquarie, 13 played in last year’s grand final loss to the Roosters.
The Bulldogs crossed for the game’s first try after four more minutes when Dogs winger Jake Averillo finished off a nice set play to score untouched in the corner and take a 4-0 lead.
As Dean Pay’s men kept up the pressure on the 2019 NRL grand finalists, a penalty was cashed in with Queensland forward Dylan Napa crashing over the try line to give the Bulldogs a 10-0 advantage after just nine minutes of play.
The pendulum started to swing the other way as the match went on and the Bulldogs started making silly errors in their half of the field.
This saw Stuart’s team finally gain consistent possession in their opposition’s half and after a series of offloads, forward Josh Papali was found free and set up teammate and 2019 Clive Churchill medalist Wighton to score underneath the black dot to bring his side back into the contest with 16 minutes remaining.
The teams went to the break with the Dogs up 10-6.
Though the Raiders dominated possession for the next 40 minutes, both sides struggled to complete their sets. Both teams ended the match with 13 errors each.
With the opportunity to take the lead, substitute halfback Williams found a gaping hole in the defence as the former St George Illawarra Dragon cut through with a tremendous dummy to place the ball down and convert his own try in the 66th minute to put the Raiders up 12-10 and eventually seal the win.
The Raiders have been dealt some crushing news over the last couple of days with English second-rower John Bateman out until at least round seven or eight of the NRL 2020 season due to shoulder surgery.
In more squad news, second-rower Hudson Young is still serving his eight-game suspension for eye-gouging at the back end of the 2019 season. His suspension carries over into the new campaign meaning he will spend the first five games on the sidelines before being considered for selection come round six.
Canterbury Bulldogs 10-12 Canberra Raiders
Bulldogs tries: Averillo, Napa. Conversions: Averillo.
Raiders tries: Wighton, Williams. Conversions: Croker, Williams.
2. Jayden Okunbor, 3. Reimis Smith, 4. Will Hopoate, 6. Lachlan Lewis, 8. Aiden Tolman, 9. Sione Katoa, 10. Dylan Napa, 11. Josh Jackson, 12. Corey Harawira-Naera, 13. Adam Elliott, 14. Jack Cogger, 21. Morgan Harper, 23. Jake Averillo.
Substitutes: 7. Brandon Wakeham, 15. Ofahiki Ogden, 16. Dean Britt, 17. Isaiah Tass, 19. Renouf To’omaga, 20. Joe Stimson, 22. Kerrod Holland, 24. Tui Katoa, 25. Aaron Schoupp.
1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 2. Bailey Simonsson, 3. Jarrod Croker (c), 14. Curtis Scott, 5. Nick Cotric, 6. Jack Wighton, 7. George Williams, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Josh Hodgson (c), 10. Sia Soliola, 11. Corey Horsburgh, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Joe Tapine.
Substitutes: 4. Michael Oldfield, 15. Emre Guler, 16. Dunamis Lui, 16. Kai O’Donnell, 17. Ryan Sutton, 18. Sam Williams, 18. Semi Valemei, 19. Matt Frawley, 20. Matt Timoko, 21. Siliva Havili, 21 .Harley Smith-Shields, 22. Daine Spencer.