Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
The Raiders have silenced their critics in beating the Bulldogs 26-22 in a match that twisted and turned right to the very end.
The Bulldogs were in control in the early stages applying plenty of pressure on attack. They couldn?t capitalise however as the Raiders line held solid despite missed tackles starting to creep in. The Bulldogs did get some reward when Drew offloaded straight into the arms of a charging Braith Anasta who opened the scoring.
It wasn?t to last long as Clinton Schifcofske?s night was just beginning. Woolford sent the ball inside to the Raiders fullback who stepped and forced his way through a flat footed Bulldogs defence.
The try came at a great time for the Raiders who looked like they were just starting to fall behind. They found momentum afterwards but like the Bulldogs in the first 20 minutes couldn?t turn pressure into points. The Bulldogs instead found the line. Thurston threw a cut out ball to Hughes who found space then kicked through for Vagana who dived on the ball.
The game proved all-night long however that nothing was certain. Just when the Bulldogs looked to be going into halftime with the lead the Raiders hit back. Crocker gave the ball to the inside runner McLinden who packed on the pace drawing in the fullback and passing to Woolford who scored under the posts.
If the fans in at Bruce Stadium weren?t satisfied with the first half the second stanza well and truly quenched their first for entertaining football.
Canberra immediately knocked on from the kickoff. The Bulldogs weren?t about to blow such an opportunity and on the fifth tackle a Braith Anasta kick connected with Matthew Utai who stretched over to score.
The Raiders didn?t dwell on their second half start for very long as Phil Graham produced the try of the night. A Lolesi pass found Graham space out wide. He then proceeded to chip into the in goal and beat out El Masri in the chase. The video referee was called upon to adjudicate. Bill Harrigan awarded the try in what was a difficult decision with there being barely a blade of grass between the grounded ball and the dead ball line.
Grahams try was followed up by another Raiders try this time to Schifcofske. The Raiders found themselves in Bulldogs territory through some enterprising play, running it from deep within their half. Two plays later Schifcofske broke the Canterbury line and charged over in the corner.
The fun and games weren?t over by a long shot. Davico knocked on from the kickoff and Thurston from the set of six that followed the mistake found his way through the Raiders defence and over the tryline to steal back the lead.
The game was finally won by Canberra when firstly Schifcofske, already in red hot form sliced the bulldogs line kicking through for the racing McLinden to re-gather and score. Then secondly an O?Meley penalty gave the Raiders an easy two points.
As the fulltime siren sounded Canberra players and fans rejoiced. This was always going to be the tester for Canberra. Many have been saying over the first 6 weeks of this competition that the Raiders haven?t been beating teams of quality. Now they?ve beaten one of the very best in the Bulldogs and off the bye as well. Rugby League in the Australian capital hasn?t looked this good in a long time with Canberra unbeaten after 7 rounds and fans turning out in mass to see their team.
Leagueunlimited's Player of the Year Awards: 3 - C Schifcofske 2 - S Woolford 1 - J Thurston
Scorers: Raiders Tries: Schifcofske 2, Woolford, Graham, McLinden Goals: Schifcofske 3/6 Bulldogs Tries: Anasta, Vagana, Utai, Thurston Goals: El Masri 3/3
By the clock: 0 min: Kickoff!
9th min: TRY - Bulldogs. Brad Drew is driven back and tries to offload the ball but right into the hands of Braith Anasta who streaks away under the posts. The video ref ruled the ball wasn't stripped and the Bulldogs are first to strike. Hazem El Masri's conversion is successful - Bulldogs 6-0.
19th min: TRY - Raiders. The Raiders got the ball through a Hughes mistake. Woolfod put the ball back on the inside to Clinton Schifcofske who stepped and forced his way over the Bulldogs tryline. Schifcofske is successful in converting his own try - 6 all.
24th min: NEWS - That try came at a vital time for the Raiders. The Bulldogs were starting to make some real inroads on attack with missed tackles starting to creep into the Raiders game. Now the Raiders confidence and play has lifted with the proceedings starting to swing back in their favour.
28th min: NEWS - The Raiders blow a certain try. Phil Graham read a Thurston pass to perfection but couldn't hold onto the intercepted ball.
33rd min: TRY - Bulldogs. Hughes found space thanks to a great cut out ball from Thurston. Hughes chose not to go with the support inside of Willie Mason instad putting in a grubber that Nigel Vagana dived onto to score a try. El Masri converts a pearler from the sideline - Bulldogs 12-6.
39th min: TRY - Raiders. What a sensational try from the greenmachine. Crocker gave an inside to McLinden who split the Bulldogs showing great pace. He eventually drew in the fullback and sent Woolford over the line. Schifcofske's conversion is successful - 12 all.
Half-time: What a first half its been. On paper it was shaping up as one of the matches of the round and the first 40 minutes hasn't let anyone down. The Bulldogs were dominant in the first 20 minutes. Despite the pressure they were building early on they couldn't break the Canberra line with their first try coming through the luck of a wayward offload from Drew. The Raiders hit back next through Schifcofske just when they looked like they were struggling. From then on they worked themselves into the game with both sides trading tries late in the half. Lets hope the second half is every bit as good and then some.
41st min: The second half is underway.
43rd min: TRY - Bulldogs. The Raiders spilt the pill in the first set back from the break. Anasta put in a kick on the fith tackle which Utai ran the perfect angle to run onto, reaching out to plant the ball down. El Masri's conversion is successful - Bulldogs 18-12.
50th min: NEWS - The Bulldogs have really lifted the tempo in the first half on the back of their early try. Their starting to throw the ball around almost treating it as a game of touch football. The Raiders hold on though as the Bulldogs are miss out on a try through a forward pass.
54th min: TRY - Raiders. Lolesi delivered a ball that put Graham into space. What followed was a brilliant individual try as Graham put in a chip kick beating out El Masri in the chase to touch the ball down barely a blade of grass away from the dead ball line. After many looks video referee Bill Harrigan awarded Graham the try. Schifcofske's conversion is unsuccessful - Bulldogs 18-16.
57th min: TRY - Raiders. The Raiders have really hit top gear now. First they ran it from deep inside their own half making big break. A couple of plays later Clinton Schifcofske split the Bulldogs defence charging over to put the Raiders into the lead. Once again though Schifcofske is unsuccessful with the conversion - Raiders 20-18.
59th min: TRY - Bulldogs. This match is constantly twisting and turning. Davico knocked on from the kickoff. The Bulldogs proceeded to spread it wide and Thurston found his way over. El Masri is unsuccessful with the conversion - Bulldogs 22-20.
66h min: TRY - Raiders. Great players step up in big matches and Clinton Schifcoske is having a ripper tonight, Queensland will have a tough time finding an excuse not to pick him. Schifcoske making a break once again kicked ahead for McLinden who won the race for the ball and scored. The video ref was called apon to look at a knock on but there were no problems. Schifcofske's kicking sadly isn't matching his playing form as he misses another conversion attempt - Raiders 24-22.
69th min: NEWS - Tension boils over as O'Meley gives Woolford some heavy treatment coming over the top with an albow then a slap to the head. A penalty is given and the Raiders opt to go for goal.
70th min: PENALTY GOAL - Clinton Schifcofske slots a kick from 30 out and straight in front - Raiders 26-22.
Fulltime: What a match, what a crowd. The fans packed into Bruce Stadium tonight, the crowd was the biggest since Mel Meninga's farewell at the ground nearly a decade ago. Its been undoubtably one of the matches of the season so far. The balance shifted continually with the Raiders only being able to cement victory in the final 10 minutes. Final score - Raiders 26-22.