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An under strength Canberra Raiders side met some unexpected resistance from the lowly Bulldogs in Premier League on Monday, going down 32-20 at Telstra Stadium.
But the loss isn?t the only worry for Coach Andrew McFadden?s team, with a mounting injury toll and two probably suspensions threatening to derail their charge to a top fourth spot.
Already missing a host of regulars including William Zillman, Terry Campese, Marc Herbert and Junior Sau, the Raiders face the prospect of losing Jack Pearson (arm), David Milne (ribs), Cy Lasscock (hand) to injury, while Nathan Smith, who also has a rib injury, and Kris Kahler are both on report.
The Raiders got off to the worst possible start when hooker Daniel Irvine sent winger Namila Davui over in the corner after just three minutes.
Trent Cutler found out some lazy defence to dive across adjacent to the posts after 10 minutes, and Ben Roberts? conversion gave the Bulldogs a handy 10-0 lead.
However a great short ball from prop Dane Tilse sent Glenn Buttriss over to narrow the margin to six points.
Canberra had the opportunity to level the scores on 24 minutes, but Brent Crisp was unfortunately held up in goal after taking a bomb.
But from the next set the Bulldogs managed to stretch the lead once more, Roberts slicing through under the posts.
The Raiders had their opportunities, but poor ball control and some lacklustre defence cost them and Lydan Maitua went over to stretch the lead to 22-4.
Milne finished a great backline movement five minutes before half time to give the Raiders some hope. Bronx Goodwin missed the difficult conversion but the Raiders had cut the lead to 14.
A barnstorming run from Jermaine Ale 13 minutes after the break got the Raiders within eight, but that is as close as the men in green would get.
The second half turned into a drop-a-thon at one stage, with both teams guilty of poor ball control, but a try to Karl McNichol with 19 minutes to go all but sealed the match for the Bulldogs.
Goodwin managed to get his name on the score sheet, scoring a scintillating try off the back of a Tilse offload. But when Daniel Conn dived over from dummy half the Bulldogs had handed the Raiders their first loss in five matches.
McFadden said his team had the wind taken out of their sails after a good month of football, but he was not disappointed with the effort.
?The fact that we lost our three key halves, and we had a young rookie in there today. McFadden said. ?There were some promising signs there. I just think it is going to take some time.
?There were a couple of young guys that haven?t had that much experience in premier league so it was a real step up for them. I?m sure that they will get a lot of experience and confidence out of playing each game,? he said.
McFadden singled out his big prop, Tilse, as the best of the beaten bunch. Glenn Buttriss and Kris Kahler also have strong games for the Raiders.
?The last three weeks haven?t been kind. I?m not sure how it is going to pan out next week with team selection.
?We might struggle for a little bit but I?m sure we?ll come out the other side better.
?But it is something every team has to deal with and I know that we can cope with it,? he said.
BULLDOGS 32 defeated CANBERRA 20 (Glenn Buttriss, David Milne, Jermaine Ale, Bronx Goodwin tries; Goodwin 2 goals)