Rugby League


NRL: The key talking points from Gold Coast's 24-20 victory over Canberra Raiders


When Jarrod Croker knocked over a penalty goal to extend the lead to 14 points in the 56th minute, it looked like the Raiders were ready to blow the Titans away. But has been the case this season, the Raiders have struggled to put teams away. They made too many mistakes and gifted the Titans field position. Former Raiders prop David Shillington scored in the 65th minute and Zeb Taia got across with five minutes on the clock to make it a two-point game. There was more than a bit of doubt over John Olive's match-winning try in the 79th minute. The bunker agreed with the on-field referee's decision of a try when it looked like he was held up, to give the Titans the victory at the death.


You would have loved to be the punter who took the juicy odds of $101 for Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson to win the Dally M Medal at the start of the season. We're a long way from the finish line, but the English international will more than likely have at least 10 or 11 votes from a possible 12 after another brilliant man-of-the-match performance. Hodgson's creativity was on show for all to see with a lovely inside pass to put his fellow Pom Elliott Whitehead over the line. He then left the Titans defence gasping at air to put Edrick Lee under the posts untouched. Hodgson is quickly catching the attention of the NRL universe to become one of the top three hookers in the competition.


The Raiders were exposed several times close to their own try-line and the Titans made them pay for some ordinary defensive efforts. Brenko Lee and Shaun Fensom left a gaping hole as the Titans crossed for their opening try in the first half. David Shillington made his former teammates pay with a strong run before Zeb Taia also barged his way over from close range. The Raiders simply must improve their goal-line defence if they want to be considered a genuine top eight side this season. They face a huge test against the Bulldogs on Monday week.


After three home games in the first four rounds, the Raiders now hit the road for a difficult double-header which will test their resolve and character. They have a nine-day turnaround before they take on the Canterbury Bulldogs at Belmore. That's followed by a short five-day break before their clash with the Parramatta Eels at Pirtek Stadium. The Raiders had a wonderful away record last season and must draw on that confidence to keep themselves in the top eight after winning two of their opening four games with a loss and a draw. They will be hoping star halves Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer will make a swift comeback. Both players are expected back between round six and round eight, with the earliest estimation putting them on track for the Eels game.