Late field goal breaks Raiders’ heartsAs it happenedWIGHTON WILL BE A MAN IN DEMAND
Jack Wighton’s timing in injecting himself into the Canberra Raiders back-line at fullback keeps getting better every game. His athleticism set up a number of opportunities for Canberra, his sweeping play giving the Cowboys all sorts of issues. His pet play, linking into Canberra’s left edge, set up the hosts’ opening try of the game through Edrick Lee. Wighton is contracted with Canberra until the end of next year, but there surely are clubs lining up with interest to see how things unfold at the negotiating table. His stocks rise with every game and his versatility, which has allowed him to play every position except halfback, will only put him in more demand. Incumbent Blues centre Michael Jennings is in doubt for the Origin decider due to his late-night antics on Friday night. Wighton wouldn’t look out of place in the No.3 NSW jersey. FIRST-HALF DEFENCE SETS UP WIN
The Raiders were forced to make about 60 extra tackles in the first half, due to a combination of Johnathan Thurston forcing repeat sets through dropouts with his kicking game, and the Cowboys’ low error rate. The fact the Cowboys elected to take two penalty goals when they had Canberra on the ropes was solid praise for a Canberra defence that has leaked a lot of points this year. With Matt Scott, James Tamou and Thurston backing up from Origin on Wednesday and Canberra coming off a bye, it was the dirty work that almost set up a second home win of the year. WHERE DO YOU FIT LEILUA?
There’s no doubt the mid-season acquisition of Newcastle centre Joey Leilua is a big coup for Canberra. But where do they fit the Samoan international in their outside backs? Wingers Edrick Lee and Jordan Rapana both had big games against North Queensland, Wighton and skipper Jarrod Croker are indispensable and right centre Sisa Waqa made several crucial reads in defence with Canberra camped on their own try line. It’s a great dilemma for coach Ricky Stuart to have. There’s no doubt Leilua will slot in at some point, but someone will be very unlucky to miss out. WARRIORS MATCH ACROSS THE DITCH NOW CRUCIAL
The Raiders are 6-8 but could be 8-6 at least with a little more luck. There’s no doubt that’s frustrating the club but next week’s match against the Warriors in Auckland before their second bye is now massive. Canberra has been on the end of some floggings by the Warriors on their turf in recent years, and both teams like to throw the ball around. Although they have a favourable draw in the back half of the year, recovering from 6-9 in a competition as tight as the NRL is tough. HOME WOES CONTINUE
The Raiders have now won just one of seven games at home. In none of those matches have they been horrible, but their inability to secure the two points at Belconnen is threatening to derail any hope of September action. The players insists it’s not mental and their performance against the red-hot Cowboys would have been enough to beat most other sides in the competition. Blake Austin said in an on-field interview afterward it’s frustrating, but he “hopes the fans are seeing they’re having a dig”. They do, but unfortunately premiership points aren’t handed out for effort.
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