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Low blows galore as Canberra topple Penrith
A couple of unsavoury incidents soured Canberra's first win of the year. Both teams also lost key players, with James Segeyaro and Blake Austin facing a stint on the sidelines.
His prized new halves combination both suffered potential serious injuries, but Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart preferred to focus on his team's resilience after outlasting Penrith 30-22 at Canberra Stadium on Saturday.
During the game, which was played in brutal 34 degree heat, Raiders five-eighth Blake Austin suffered medial ligament damage to his right knee early in the second half.
It left halves partner, Gold Coast recruit Aidan Sezer, to bravely play on with a suspected fractured cheekbone or eye socket to guide his new team home.
Both players will have scans on Monday to discover the extent of the damage, but the Raiders were relieved Austin hadn't injured his anterior cruciate ligament.
|Goal Scorers||Canberra Raiders||Penrith Panthers|
|Tries||Lee (1), Austin (1), Sezer (2), Fensom (1)||Merrin (1), Hiku (1), Mansour (1)|
|Conversions||Croker (3/5)||Soward (3/3)|
|Penalty Goals||Croker (2/2)||Soward (2/2)|
Penrith hooker James Segeyaro's season may be over after he suffered a suspected broken forearm in the second half of his 100th NRL game.
It soured an otherwise gutsy win for the Raiders, who seemingly looked headed for another close home loss after similar losses in last year's campaign.
Sezer scored two tries but it was his bravery that caught the eye of his coach.
"There's a chance he might have a broken cheekbone or eye socket, [but with Austin injured] he had to stay on," Stuart said.
"That for me is better than scoring two tries, him staying on and playing, he couldn't see out of his left eye."
Austin left the ground on crutches, shattered at how his return from off-season shoulder surgery fared.
He scored a try and set up another early after he was promoted from the bench to start for Sam Williams (virus).
"I don't know the full extent [of the injury]; it's a medial not an ACL," Stuart said.
Some Raiders players reported they had lost between three and five kilograms in the sweltering heat.
The forwards were collectively superb, with Shaun Fensom (132 metres, 39 tackles) finishing off the game with a rare 30-metre solo try in the dying seconds.
"I just poked my nose through and didn't really know what to do there," Fensom said.
"I haven't seen open space for a while but made a beeline for that right post, a little right foot and managed to get over the line."
Trailing 16-8, Penrith rallied with 14 unanswered points to wrest momentum and it looked like it would be another tough loss to swallow for the Raiders.
"The experience and education we got last year in close games, it obviously helps," Stuart said.
"This time last year we were sitting on the other end of that and knowing how it feels.
"Our performance wasn't overly attractive, but they got the little disciplines correct; I thought we were quite good in those areas.
"I was really proud of our toughness."
Williams will be back for next Saturday's home game against the Roosters, but it's unclear whether Sezer will be ruled out.
Raiders skipper Jarrod Croker also played with a virus.
"It was more tough for those boys in the middle, I can guarantee you that," Croker said. "Those big boys were tremendous in that heat.
"They worked really hard. The boys dug in really well and I was really impressed with them.
"Last year we should have just given it to Fenno [Fensom, in close games] so he can run 30 [metres]."
New Penrith coach Anthony Griffin said he was unsure whether Segeyaro's injury was season-ending.
"It looks like he has a broken forearm; it's pretty disappointing but he's a pretty tough kid," Griffin said.
"He didn't want to come off, but the doctors are fairly certain that's what's happened."
CANBERRA RAIDERS 30 (Aidan Sezer 2, Edrick Lee, Blake Austin, Shaun Fensom tries; Jarrod Croker 5 goals) bt PENRITH PANTHERS 22 (Trent Merrin, Peta Hiku, Josh Mansour tries; Jamie Soward 5 goals) at Canberra Stadium on Saturday. Crowd: 11, 297. Referees: Gavin Badger and Dave Munro.