SOME divine intervention from the football gods helped the Canberra Raiders storm into the SG Ball Cup grand final with a dramatic 33-32 extra time win over Sydney Roosters at St Mary's yesterday.
A freak field goal from halfback Anthony Milford - which bounced off both posts and the crossbar - capped a stunning second half fightback from the Raiders.
Down 26-4 at half-time in the preliminary final, Canberra's premiership hopes looked all but over.
But the young Raiders refused to lay down, and capitalised on a tiring Roosters outfit to book their place in next week's decider against Balmain, who beat Souths 34-26.
It was fitting that Milford, the under-18 competition's second leading point scorer, put the finishing touches on Canberra's incredible revival.
The 17-year-old took over the game in the second half to guide his side back from the brink of elimination. Canberra now has an opportunity to shoot for its third SG Ball premiership after first winning the competition in 1995 and most recently in 2005.
At half-time, Raiders coach Peter Marrapodi ordered his side to focus on improving its completions to tire out the bigger Roosters outfit.
''We came out really flat in the first half, which may have been a hangover from having the week off last week,'' Marrapodi said.
''But in the second half we came out enthusiastic and played a bit of footy on them. Because they have such a big forward pack we knew if we hung on to the ball we'd take some juice out of them and they'd struggle down the back end of the game.''
Canberra will enter Saturday's grand final, also at St Mary's, full of confidence after beating the previously unbeaten Tigers in the first week of the finals.
''There was a lot of guys jumping around after the game and it felt like grand final day, we just have to remind them the job's not done just yet,'' Marrapodi said.