Rugby League


What we learned: Canberra Raiders v Canterbury Bulldogs


CANTERBURY BULLDOGS 22 (Drury Low 2, Corey Thompson, Tim Lafai tries; Trent Hodkinson 3 goals) bt CANBERRA RAIDERS 14 (Jarrod Croker, Anthony Milford tries; Croker 3 goals) at Canberra Stadium on Friday night. Referees: Ashley Klein and Alan Shortall. Crowd: 10,873  at Canberra Stadium on Friday night.  Referees: Ashley Klein and Alan Shortall


With injuries to NSW outside backs Michael Jennings and Will Hopoate, Raiders centre Jack Wighton had an ideal chance to press his claims after being involved in the Blues camp for Origin II. But with Blues coach Laurie Daley watching on from the stands, the 21-year-old was caught out of position twice in defence in the first half. It allowed opposite number Tim Lafai to set up two tries to winger Drury Low with quick passes. Daley has huge raps on Wighton, as evidence by his move to bring Wighton into camp last week to get a feel of how things work for the future. 


Reece Robinson had a shocker against Brisbane under the high ball last week and was dumped to NSW Cup. So it came as a massive shock when he was named at fullback, with rising fullback Anthony Milford dropping back to the bench. Presumably the reason was because Milford was involved in Queensland Origin camp all week and didn't train much with the side. However, it backfired badly when Robinson gifted Canterbury a second-half try. Trying desperately to avoid a drop out, Robinson lost the ball attempting to plant it in the field of play. He lost it and Tim Lafai pounced to score. It was ruled a no try by the on-field referees, but video referees Luke Phillips and Henry Perenara overruled. It was a controversial call, as Trent Hodkinson appeared to be holding Robinson's legs, which would constitute a tackle. 



Leading 6-4 midway through the first half, the Raiders put Canterbury under pressure with around 15 tackles on their line. Curiously Canberra opted to let the Dogs off the hook and take the penalty goal from in front. Clearly skipper Terry Campese didn't agree with coach Ricky Stuart's decision, slamming the ball into the turf in disgust. The visitors proceeded to score the final two tries of the half and take a 14-8 lead into the break. The decision smacked of a struggling side clearly down on confidence and belief, but the only way to emerge from a slump is to back yourself.


Canberra centre Jarrod Croker has easily been the Raiders' most consistent player this year. He was one of their best again last night, scoring the opening try of the game and causing plenty of headaches for opposite number Krisnan Inu. He could have set up another try the very next set, but his inside pass intended for fullback Reece Robinson went to ground. The Raiders hammered the Bulldogs' left side all night and enjoyed some success.


Canberra has leaked points all year out wide, a major contributor to a defensive record which is the worst in the competition. Nothing changed in the first half with Bulldogs wingers Low and Corey Thompson making the Raiders pay for some poor reads and positional play. It's no secret it's an area where Canberra can be exposed, and it must find a way to rectify it before the season completely slips away.