The Canberra Raiders have left the Belmore faithful heartbroken after scoring three tries in the final five minutes to take a 32-28 comeback victory over the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in front of 10,415 fans at Belmore Sports Ground.
The home team started the game with the best of the field position and momentum and they were able to capitalise on that momentum when Nick Cotric handed them an opportunity after just seven minutes when Nick Cotric put a high kick down handed the ball to the Bulldogs on the 10m line. The Bulldogs didn't need more than the play off the scrum when Jeremy Marshall-King took the ball at first reciever and ran straight through some flimsy defence to score relatively untouched.
The Raiders slowly wrestled momentum back but not before the Bulldogs were able to get over the line again through Will Hopoate who was stopped just inches away from getting the ball down and despite having a fleeting hope the bunker would overturn the decision, the held up call stood. The Raiders leveled things up at the 20 minute mark when the Raiders switched their play from the middle out to the left and they spread the ball out to Croker who got on the outside of Kerrod Holland before sending it inside to Williams who scored.
Canberra gave up back to back penalties for offside and then a dangerous tackle which saw Joseph Tapine put on report and the Bulldogs elected to take a penalty goal attempt following the second which was successful off the boot of Rhyse Martin. The Raiders again hit back and got the lead through Jarrod Croker who was again able to get on the ball outside of Kerrod Holland to score after the Raiders went from the right side to the left side.
Canterbury started the second half in the best possible fashion when they got a penalty after just 20 seconds and they got over the line with Rhyse Martin picking up the first of his three tries for the night. The Raiders continued the trend of try for try when Jarrod Croker saw nothing happening so he went to the short side and brought Cotric inside him who scored the try and after Croker's conversion strayed across the face the scores were level at 14-14.
The visitors had a perfect chance to score though an over eager attempt to get a penalty from Joey Leilua cost the Raiders possession on the Bulldogs line when he lost the ball only to compound the error by giving away a penalty for too much arguing with referee Grant Atkins. The Bulldogs went upfield from the penalty and a beautiful cross-field kick from Lachlan Lewis was rewarded by a strong tap back from Josh Morris over to Rhyse Martin who forced his way over for his second try.
The 'Dogs then added to their lead with fifteen minutes to play when the Bulldogs turned on the sparkle by drawing in Joey Leilua and going down the left hand-side before a beautiful little inside flick pass from Josh Morris to Rhyse Martin who raced away for his hattrick try. The Raiders went close but couldn't score and they looked rattled with the attack stagnating. The Bulldogs put the game seemingly out of reach when Rhyse Martin added a penalty goal to take the Bulldogs lead out to 14.
Canberra set up a grandstand finish when Blake Austin stepped through the line and left the Bulldogs defence grasping at air when he stepped through to score relatively untouched. The Raiders were making big metres in attack and they pushed the Bulldogs defence to their limits. The Bulldogs coughed up possession in their own 20m zone which set the Raiders up in perfect position to add another try which they did when Joseph Tapine got his way over the line and after the bunker took a look to see if there was a double movement, the try was awarded and the Raiders were down by just two points.
The Raiders had just under two minutes to go 100m to score the try and after strong defence from the Bulldogs to start the set the Raiders spread their ball to their left and made 80 metres in three tacklesbefore the ball was spun out to Joey Leilua who turned from villain to hero when he forced his way over the line to score on the siren and secure the victory for the Raiders which was capped by the conversion from Jarrod Croker.
Next week, the blue-and-whites come up against a refreshed South Sydney Rabbitohs on Saturday afternoon, whilst Canberra host the North Queensland Cowboys on Saturday night.