Rugby League

Talking Points: Play it again Sam, Canberra Raiders holding his spot

The Raiders have hailed the signing of Titans half Aidan Sezer for 2016, but incumbent Sam Williams showed he's not going to give up Canberra's No.7 jersey without a fight. While Sezer set up the first of winger Anthony Don's three tries with a clever cross-field kick, Williams got the better of Sezer behind a dominant Canberra pack. His kicking and passing games were neat, even sneaking in for Canberra's tenth and final try. Sezer had a day to forget, throwing an intercept pass for Raiders winger Edrick Lee to score. The Raiders have looked a far better team since Williams took over from Mitch Cornish in round five, winning four of their past five matches. But Cornish may get his chance to prove himself again, with Williams sent to hospital late on Saturday night after suffering a collapsed lung during the big win.

Sam Williams of the Raiders scores a try during the round nine NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the Gold Coast ...
Sam Williams of the Raiders scores a try during the round nine NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the Gold Coast Titans Photo: Getty Images


It may be a coincidence, but Blake Austin's form has also been red-hot since the arrival of Williams. While Williams takes control of the team's attack, it leaves Austin to play to his strengths - running. Austin scored two tries, the first from a David Campese-like goosestep and the second from one pass off the ruck. Combining with last weekend's hat-trick for City, Austin has five tries in two matches. His defence has also lifted a notch, making another try-saver yesterday on a runaway Josh Hoffman. Origin bolter? NSW must give him serious thought.


He started the season at prop, but Josh Papalii is in his best position again in the back-row and causing havoc on the edge. Papalii scored an opportune try from a kick. But most impressive was his first half charge in the first half for Jordan Rapana's try, pulling through three defenders before a magic backhand flick pass. Papalii started the season out of shape and it's understandable the Raiders experimented with him at prop, given they could use him in shorter 20 minute bursts. But the Raiders are now well stocked for props, with Paul Vaughan, Frank-Paul Nu'uausala and Shannon Boyd leading the way.



There may be a no-punch policy in the NRL now, but it didn't stop the niggle in this game and Titans forward Ryan James was generally in the thick of it. He had a running battle with Raiders props Boyd and Nu'uausala, with James and Nu'uausala at one stage rubbing foreheads and staring each other down. James was also lucky not to be sin-binned for a late shoulder charge on a supporting Austin in the lead-up to Jarrod Croker's first try. Raiders winger Edrick Lee also had a run-in with James Roberts. Canberra's lanky winger started the season flat, but he's got his mojo back since ditching his flat-top hairstyle.


Given the size of the win, it's tough to believe the Raiders hadn't tasted victory at Canberra Stadium this season from their three previous starts. Canberra's 10 tries against the Titans was the most the Raiders had scored since their 56-0 win against the Brisbane Broncos iin 2009.  Captain Jarrod Croker scored two tries and 24 points. The only disappointing number was the 8,116 in the crowd to see it unfold.