Rookie Raiders prop Shannon Boyd was outstanding against Souths. Photo: Getty Images
Their veterans were crucial but Canberra skipper Terry Campese singled out a raw rookie for providing the "spark" that helped the Raiders survive a second-half onslaught from South Sydney at ANZ Stadium on Sunday.
Down two of its biggest workers in Joel Edwards (concussion) and Shaun Fensom (elbow) for the back half of the game, it was Shannon Boyd who inspired his team off the canvas.
Up 22-0 at half-time, Canberra was in danger of squandering victory when Dylan Walker and George Burgess scored tries within 15 minutes after the break.
After a disallowed try to Rabbitohs winger Nathan Merritt, Boyd provided the spur that lifted his team when it was gasping for air.
"They were running over the top of us at that point," Campese said.
"Boydy had the first carry and that sparked us – he broke through the line and, from there on, we played the way we did in the first half."
It was a match that could prove a watershed for Canberra's youngsters.
Second-year prop Paul Vaughan racked up 151 metres in the middle and played big minutes filling the Fensom-Edwards void on the edge.
Canberra’s starting back row has been ravaged by injury, with Fensom, Edwards and Test star Josh Papalii (ankle syndesmosis) all suffering setbacks.
Fensom sustained a grade-one elbow ligament tear and will have scans early this week to determine how long he is sidelined.
Vaughan will likely take his place in the No.13 jersey, having deputised ably against Gold Coast last week when Fensom was suspended.
He is adamant the side is better equipped than before to fill the void should Edwards fail in his bid to play at Penrith next Saturday.
Former Test prop Tom Learoyd-Lahrs returned from injury in the NSW Cup on Saturday and could earn an early recall if Vaughan moves to lock, as expected.
"I don't think anyone was tipping us to win this game, we were heavy underdogs, but I think we're mentally stronger this year," Vaughan said.
"I haven't played in the back row since under 20s but I've played big minutes two weeks in a row now.
"But it's a big loss losing Papalii and Fenno, they're quality players."
There are hopes Papalii may return earlier than expected against Newcastle in round six.
Veteran Raiders prop Dane Tilse said the win would give his younger teammates huge belief.
"It was pretty trying conditions in the heat but young guys like Vaughan and Boyd really stepped up," Tilse said.
"They’ll definitely get a lot of education, winning a game like that."