Canberra Raiders vs North Queensland
Raiders player Jarrod Croker is all smiles after scoring a try. Photo: Melissa Adams
CANBERRA RAIDERS 42 (Jack Wighton 2, Paul Vaughan, Jarrad Kennedy, Reece Robinson, Jarrod Croker, Anthony Milford tries; Jarrod Croker 7 goals) bt NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS 12 (Ethan Lowe, Curtis Rona tries; Ethan Lowe 2 goals) at Canberra Stadium. Referees: Gerard Sutton, Jared Maxwell. Crowd: 8412
The Raiders went in as firm favourites against an under-strength Cowboys side, and didn't let down the punters with an impressive performance. Despite conceding the first try, the Raiders led 18-6 at half-time and were never bothered after the break. It was a massive improvement on the previous three weeks when the Raiders had conceded 134 points in their three straight losses. The Raiders are now 4-7 and will take some confidence into next week's game against the Roosters in Sydney.
THE TURNING POINT
Holding a slender 12-6 lead, the Raiders had one final chance to score just before half-time. Skipper Terry Campese made a break from halfway to find Sami Sauiluma to put them in position. From the next tackle and with the clock winding down, the Raiders swung the ball to the right, Anthony Milford got involved in the play and put Jack Wighton over in the corner. Jarrod Croker's conversion made it 18-6 and the Raiders were never headed from there.
CENTRE OF ATTENTION
Raiders centre Jack Wighton is looking more and more comfortable getting back a bit wider to the play after starting the season at five-eighth. Wighton was dangerous every time he touched the ball on the right edge and crossed for a couple of tries. While he still has the potential to switch to the No.6 jersey later in his career, Wighton's strength is running the ball and causing opposition defences plenty of headaches with his strength and size. The Raiders look a far more dangerous outfit when he features heavily in the play.
Highly rated Raiders halfback Mitch Cornish sat on the bench for the first half before he was given his first taste of NRL, making a memorable 15-minute cameo in the second half. The 21-year-old is a former NSW under-20s captain and Junior Kangaroos representative. Cornish received a massive cheer from the crowd when he came on in the 65th minute. He started with an assured kick to the corner and led the kick chase. Cornish finished off with a neat pass to Milford to set up Wighton for Milford's late try.
THE THURSTON FACTOR
The Cowboys badly missed the influence of all of their State of Origin stars, but most notably was the lack of attacking direction. Replacing champion five-eighth Johnathan Thurston is an impossible task and the Cowboys struggled in his absence to create any pressure on the Raiders with their last tackle options. Along with Thurston, the Cowboys were also without Australian props Matt Scott and James Tamou, along with veteran outside back Brent Tate. Last week, the Cowboys also lost Gavin Cooper and Cameron King to season-ending injuries.