Rabbitohs 34 Raiders 18
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart labelled his side’s basic errors of ‘’Queensland or NSW Cup standard’’ as the Raiders’ wooden spoon odds shortened with a 34-18 home loss to South Sydney on Monday night.
But the second-placed Rabbitohs’ quest to break their premiership drought copped a huge blow with John Sutton and Sam Burgess both suffering injuries and failing to complete the match.
John Sutton of the Rabbitohs receives treatment for an injury against the Raiders. Photo: Getty Images
Canberra slumped to its ninth loss in its past 11 games, and its home record is a poor two wins from eight matches.
It is now in jeopardy of securing a first spoon since its maiden 1982 season. The Raiders are equal last with Cronulla, and only ahead of the Sharks on points differential.
It must seem like Groundhog Day for Stuart, who was in no mood to sugar coat things after his side committed 12 errors to the Rabbitohs' five.
Bryson Goodwin scores one of his two tries. Photo: Getty Images
“It wasn’t of a first grade standard,’’ Stuart said. “We didn’t complete our sets and made eight errors [in the first half].
“We made errors I see in NSW Cup or Q Cup, it’s quite common throughout our season and if you don’t complete your sets of six you’re on the back end of a tough day.’’
Five-eighth Sutton lasted just five minutes before leaving the field with a medial ligament issue to his right knee, while Burgess didn’t finish the match with a shoulder problem.
NRL: Canberra Raiders vs South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Canberra Raiders take on the South Sydney Rabbitohs at GIO Stadium. Photo: Melissa Adams
Fellow Rabbitohs back-rower Ben Te'o was also placed on report for a lifting tackle on Raiders centre Jarrod Croker.
South Sydney’s long-suffering fans will be praying the injuries aren’t too serious as the club seeks a first title since 1971.
Sutton seems certain to miss at least a few weeks at after he confirmed the diagnosis to Fox Sports.
“The doc said it was very loose, he said if I kept playing you could hurt your ACL (anterior cruciate ligament),’’ Sutton said.
“Hopefully I get it right and I’m back in a few weeks.’’
Depending on the severity of Sutton’s injury, 22-year-old Luke Keary could be charged with helping steer the ship in the finals.
He was solid in tandem with Adam Reynolds, whom he has been putting pressure on to retain his place, when he came off the bench.
Reynolds scored two tries and was brilliant throughout, as was Rabbitohs centre Dylan Walker.
“Adam and I have had some good discussions this week,there’s been a lot of talk about Adam and what’s happening,’’ Souths coach Michael Maguire said.
“But Adam just stayed with his game and I think he and Luke stood up.’’
Maguire estimated Sutton could miss up to two to three weeks, but the damage wouldn’t be officially known until he has scans.
It’s the same situation with Burgess, the English international seen icing his shoulder after leaving the field in the second half.
“Sam’s a bit concerned about it, I’m not going to lie to you, but until you get scans it’s hard to tell,’’ Maguire said.
“Sam said it got sore internally, what that means scans will tell us.’’
The only shining light for Canberra was Croker’s 15th try of the season, which drew him level with Parramatta’s Semi Radradra atop the NRL top try scorers' list.
The Raiders’ defensive woes on either edge were ruthlessly exposed, with Keary and Reynolds terrorising Raiders winger Sami Sauiluma with great effect.
An early Croker penalty gave Canberra a 2-0 lead, but the visitors hit back immediately with tries to Walker, Alex Johnston and Bryson Goodwin to take a 12-2 half-time lead.
Early in the second half they were gifted their fourth try when Raiders fullback Anthony Milford left a Walker kick in the belief it was going dead in-goal.
However it stayed just inside the field of play to gift Johnston his second four-pointer of the game and swell the lead to 16-2.
Only poor early goal kicking from Reynolds kept Canberra in the game, and Sauiluma redeemed himself with one of the tries of the season.
Sauiluma threw himself in the air and planted the ball just inside the sideline with a tremendous athletic effort.
It handed Canberra momentum, who hammered the try-line for the next few minutes but couldn’t find the breakthrough.
With 18 minutes left Reynolds finished off a superb Rabbitohs movement to seal the match at 22-6.
The Raiders scored fine consolation tries through Croker and Milford, but the damage had been done.
SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS 34 (Alex Johnston 2, Bryson Goodwin 2, Adam Reynolds 2, Dylan Walker tries; Reynolds 3 goals) bt CANBERRA RAIDERS 18 (Sami Sauiluma, Jarrod Croker, Anthony Milford tries; Jarrod Croker 3 goals) at Canberra Stadium on Monday night. Crowd: 9526. Referees: Ashley Klein and Chris Butler.