Bulldogs 28 Raiders 16
Raiders v Bulldogs
Raiders player Joel Thompson. Photo: Jay Cronan
Canberra Raiders coach David Furner has questioned his side’s mental strength under adversity after Saturday’s 28-16 loss to Canterbury.
But Furner refused to concede the Raiders’ finals chances were over, despite the Canberra Stadium loss pushing their season to the brink of extinction.
Needing to win to return to the top-eight, Furner felt his players dropped their heads after the Raiders had three tries disallowed by video referees in the first half.
The most controversial call was when Raiders halfback Sam Williams was denied a seemingly fair try midway through the first half.
On-field referee Ashley Klein awarded the try but his decision was overturned in the box, claiming Williams had knocked on. The Bulldogs scored on the next set, racing to a 14-0 lead.
Furner refused to criticise officials, instead laying the blame at his players for failing to respond to the setbacks.
‘‘We’re maybe just mentally not being able to handle it, those three disallowed tries,’’ he said.
“Those things happen in a game, we should be able to defend that and we didn’t.
“I probably only question Sammy’s where the referee awarded it. They need grounds to overturn it, and I didn’t see any separation.
“The season ain’t over, it’s up to individuals how they handle it.’’
The Raiders are now 10-11, outside the top-eight, and face a nightmare run home with games against Manly (home), New Zealand (away) and Cronulla (home).
A horrible for and against means they may need to win all three to make finals. On Saturday’s evidence, it appears unlikely.
Co-captain Brett White said players had failed to roll up their sleeves.
“Defending against adversity like that, it’s about all the boys doing the job,’’ he said.
“We know we have a talented side but we can’t rely on that alone, we have to do the gritty work.
“That has got to be our attitude, not just relying on talent and scoring points, we have to defend against adversity.’’
Ben Barba may be glancing at the exit, but Josh Morris proved Canterbury could cope without him with a superb fullback display.
The Test centre may have single-handedly stamped Barba’s ticket to Brisbane by scoring a try and creating three more.
Barba this week officially requested a release from his Bulldogs contract to so he can be closer to his former partner Ainslie Currie and his two young daughters next year, who are moving to Queensland.
The Broncos is his near certain destination, but Hasler has insisted he won’t let him go unless he finds a quality replacement fullback.
On Saturday’s evidence at Canberra Stadium, his search is over.
“The way he performed today, you’d think he’d be playing fullback for quite a while,’’ Hasler said.
“He was outstanding out there given it’s only his third game there, they were great offloads for tries at critical times for us.’’
Morris has been named in the No.3 jersey the past three weeks, but shifted to fullback in the diminuitive Barba’s absence.
“It’s probably something I haven’t thought about long term,’’ Morris said.
“I love playing in the centres and having forged a rep career there ... at the moment I’m doing what’s best for the team.’’
The Raiders' plight was compounded by a season-ending right tibia fracture to Jack Wighton.
Canberra’s 2013 finals hopes may also be finished after a third straight loss.
It was a disappointing showing by the hosts, who sorely missed key player Shaun Fensom and skipper Terry Campese, while Ferguson withdrew late with a thigh injury.
CANTERBURY BULLDOGS 28 (S Perrett 3, M Brown, T Lafai, J Morris tries; T Hodkinson 2 goals) bt CANBERRA RAIDERS 16 (S Earl, A Milford, J Papalii tries; J Croker 2 goals) at Canberra Stadium. Referees: Gavin Reynolds, Ashley Klein. Crowd: 11,847.