Time to look ahead to Sunday's decider! Rob Crosby has a full look at both teams and what to expect ...
36 hours ago
Canberra Raiders 12 v Canterbury Bulldogs 30
at Canberra Stadium
Referees: Shayne Hayne
Canterbury has defeated Canberra by 30-12 in a weary battle down in the Nation?s Capital.
Much of the pre-game hype surrounded the dumping of regular halfback Brent Sherwin to Premier League and the possible return of Sonny Bill Williams. Sonny Bill didn?t make it onto the field this week but there?s plenty of talk he?ll be facing up against the Bunnies in Round 6. But after today?s performance, I doubt Sherwin will be.
Daniel Holdsworth and Reni Maitua lead the team around the park capably today, combining their different games to good effect. Maitua showed off his running game whilst Holdsworth distributed the ball well and kept the Raiders pinned inside their own half for long stages with an effective and accurate kicking game.
It was all one-way traffic for most of the game, with Canterbury dominating possession, forcing the Raiders to carry out a mountain of defence. Willie Tonga opened up the hosts on the western side of the field in the 14th minute, strolling through a feeble attempt by David Howell before finding Trent Cutler in support.
Ill-discipline then cost the Raiders with the refined boot of Hazem El Masri?s potting two penalty goals before captain Andrew Ryan barged over from dummy half in the 37th minute. Again, El Masri?s boot found the mark and the teams went to the break with Canterbury leading 16-0.
Under the circumstances this lead wasn?t too bad, with the Bulldogs commanding 62% of the possession in the first half. But mistakes cost the Raiders dearly and they started the second half in the same fashion, turning over possession and failing to make inroads to the Bulldogs defence.
Canterbury scored six minutes after the break when Maitua broke the line, drew Schifcofske and gave fullback Luke Patten an uninterrupted passage to the sticks. Some furious exchanges in the forwards then took centre stage, with Mason and O?Meley bashing their way through the Raiders pack. With twenty minutes left on the clock young centre Andrew Emelio found the line in a scrappy fashion to put the match beyond doubt at 28-nil.
Realising the game had gotten away from them, Canberra began to throw caution to the wind and responded with a brace of tries to halfback Todd Carney, restoring some credibility to the scoreboard.
The second try to the young playmaker was a brilliant team effort and Raiders fans must be disappointed that the team didn?t try this a little earlier. Five-eighth Jason Smith took the ball to the line, chipping perfectly for winger Howell to regather amid a posse of Raiders troops storming down on the ball. Howell found Chalk on his outside who tested the mettle of Patten?s defences before dishing back inside for Carney in support. It was a fantastic try and it at least reminded Raiders fans of their capabilities when they work together.
The other bad news out of the game for Canberra was a neck injury to Adam Mogg, who was taken from the field on a stretcher. Preliminary reports suggested he was OK though.
Canberra Raiders: 12
Tries: Todd Carney(2)
Goals: Clinton Schifcofske 2/2
Canterbury Bulldogs: 30
Tries: Trent Cutler, Luke Patten, Andrew Ryan, Andrew Emelio
Goals: Hazem El Masri 7/7
By the Clock:
For the Bulldogs - O'Meley into the starting side at the expense of Armit.
For the Raiders - Chalk replaces Purtell on the wing. Jones into the starting side for Tongue. Tilse drops off the bench.
Perfect conditions in the Nation's Capital, with little breeze to speak of.
And we're underway in the first half!
7 min: NEWS The opening exchanges have been torrid. O'Meley is making his presence felt, as is Mason. There's been a few errors from both sides also.
14 min: TRY Canterbury Bulldogs
Willie Tonga brushes David Howell aside and steams down the western flank before passing to Trent Cutler in support who scores untouched. El Masri converts.
21 min: PENALTY GOAL Canterbury Bulldogs
Penalty to the Doggies right in front. El Masri extends their lead with a goal.
26 min: NEWS Canberra defending sternly as the weight of possession goes the way of the Bulldogs.
29 min: PENALTY GOAL Canterbury Bulldogs
Withers and Smith are penalised for holding Cutler down and the Doggies get another penalty. El Masri extends the lead from about 35 out.
33 min: NEWS Raiders squander possession deep in Bulldogs territory in their first venture down there for some time.
37 min: TRY Canterbury Bulldogs
The Bulldogs press the Raiders line and, despite some good scrambling defence, Andrew Ryan burrows over the line from out wide to extend the visitors' lead. El Masri converts well, as we've come to expect.
40 min: NEWS Mogg stretchered from the field with a neck injury. He won't take any further part in the game.
Halftime: The Bulldogs have starved Canberra of possession and at the moment are dominating the contest. Canberra have had few chances in the match and without a big turnaround in possession, they won't get anywhere near them. The Raiders are also down to 16 men with the injury to Mogg, but stranger things have happened and if they can take their opportunites, the Green Machine might be able to fight their way back into the contest.
And we're underway in the second half!
46 min: TRY Canterbury Bulldogs
Reni Maitua makes a break up the middle and finds Luke Patten backing up on the inside. He races away under the sticks and the try is easily converted by El Masri.
46 min: NEWS Mogg has been taken to hospital as a precaution. Apparently he has full movement in his arms and legs.
57 min: NEWS Raiders struggling to break the line with Canterbury's defence lifting a notch. The Green Machine are frustrated at the moment, with some niggle developing in the game.
60 min: TRY Canterbury Bulldogs
The Bulldogs put the game beyond doubt with a try to Emelio in the corner. The video ref checks the grounding and awards the try, with El Masri potting it from the sideline.
65 min: NEWS Lots of mistakes finding their way into the game now.
68 min: TRY Canberra Raiders
Tongue effects a run-around with Croker before finding Carney in support, who dives over for the Raiders' first try. Schifcofske converts from next to the posts and the hosts are finally on the board.
70 min: TRY Canberra Raiders
Carney grabs a double as the Raiders score the try of the match. Smith takes the ball to the line and chips over the top. Howell gathers the ball amid an army of Raiders support players. He finds Chalk on the wing who turns it back for Carney as Patten approaches. Great stuff. Schifcofske converts and there's a modicum of respect in the scoreline now.
76 min: PENALTY GOAL Canterbury Bulldogs
El Masri bangs another one over from right in front after the Raiders fail to kick the ball 10m from a goal line drop out.
Fulltime: The Bulldogs record a solid victory over the Raiders in Canberra.
Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 - Hazem El Masri (Bulldogs)
2 - Mark O'Meley (Bulldogs)
1 - Willie Mason (Bulldogs)