Rugby League


NRL: Canberra Raiders take top-three away record into North Queensland Cowboys clash

Gold and silver predictably goes to the top two teams in the NRL, but the Canberra Raiders are the surprising bronze medallists in the road-warrior standings.

The Raiders will be drawing on their impressive away record in a bid to upset the high-flying North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville on Saturday night.

While they traditionally struggle outside Canberra, the Raiders have flipped the script this season to keep themselves in the mix for the finals.

They have won just two of their nine games at Canberra Stadium this year, including a golden-point loss to the Cronulla Sharks and a one-point defeat to the Cowboys.

Normally, that sort of record would consign the Raiders to the wooden spoon. But six wins from nine games outside of the ACT has the Raiders in ninth on the table and poised to make a late charge at the finals.

Their 66.6 per cent winning percentage is behind only the second-placed Cowboys (100 per cent) and the ladder-leading Brisbane Broncos (77.7 per cent)


Incredibly, the Cowboys are a perfect nine from nine in away games this season, while the Broncos have lost just twice when they're not at Suncorp Stadium.

The Raiders are just ahead of the Sydney Roosters and Cronulla Sharks, both at 60 per cent, while the Bulldogs are the only other team which has won at least half of its away games.

Raiders second-rower Josh Papalii believed the side was unlucky not to have had more wins at home this season.

"Personally, it doesn't matter if we're playing home or away, but the Raiders definitely love a trip away, that's for sure," Papalii said.

"I think we've been good at home as well, but we just don't get the result. It doesn't mean we're playing bad, it just means we're losing the game at the end. We can turn up for away games and we've just been a bit unlucky at home."

The Raiders face a tough ask to extend their superb away record, having beaten the Sharks (24-20), Manly (29-16), the Tigers (30-22), Souths (30-22), Newcastle (44-22) and Penrith (34-24).

They are aiming to win their first game in Townsville since 2006 against a Cowboys side which has won 13 of its past 14 games.

The Raiders travelled to Townsville on Thursday having trained earlier in the week in beanies and compression clothing to get used to the drastic change in temperature.

They are $4.60 outsiders with to beat the Cowboys, but have firmed in betting for the top eight.

Having been as long as $9 on April 14, the Raiders have come in to a $2.25 chance to reach the finals given their favourable draw and a season-ending injury to New Zealand Warriors star Shaun Johnson. spokesman Will Byrne said only Manly had received more bets than the Raiders for teams not already guaranteed to make the top eight.

"The Raiders started the season at $6 to make the top eight, and the largest price they got to was $9," Byrne said. "The reason the Raiders have drifted this week is because the Cowboys thrashed the Eels on Monday night."


1. North Queensland Cowboys 100 per cent (nine from nine)

2. Brisbane Broncos 77.77 per cent (seven from nine)

3. Canberra Raiders 66.66 per cent (six from nine)

4. Sydney Roosters 60 per cent (six from 10), Cronulla Sharks (six from 10).

6. Canterbury Bulldogs 50 per cent (four from eight).

7. Parramatta Eels 44.44 per cent (four from nine), South Sydney, Melbourne Storm, Gold Coast Titans, New Zealand Warriors.

12. St George Illawarra Dragons 33.33 per cent (three from nine), Wests Tigers.

14. Manly Sea Eagles 30 per cent (three from 10).

15. Penrith Panthers 25 per cent (two from eight), Newcastle Knights.