Thanks for joining us on the blog tonight. It was chilly, really chilly. Might need worker's compo to repair my frost-bitten fingers. But I'll survive. Check out the blogs for games over the weekend to stay up to date with all the action.
From Canberra, the Dogs are back on track. The Raiders keep sinking. In a telling sign, the Bulldogs stayed out on the field longer than the Green Machine players, despite being a Canberra home game.
That's it. Good night!
CROKER STARS AGAIN
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.
EDGE DEFENCE STILL A CONCERN
Canberra has leaked point 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.
NEGATIVITY ANGERS CAMPESE
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.
MILFORD BENCHING RAISES EYEBROWS
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 the ball in the field of play. He lost it, and Tim Lafai planted the ball to score. It was ruled a no try on field, but the 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.
On to the talking points with the great Jon Tuxworth..
WIGHTON'S ORIGIN AUDITION FALLS FLAT
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.
Here's a recap:
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
Full Time. A good win for the Bulldogs. A sad way for the Raiders to celebrate their 20-year premiership reunion.
80: Into the last minute now, this one's over. A good win for the Dogs, they break a three-game losing streak. The Raiders sink to another low, they had their chances in this one but their attack is really struggling. They get into the 10 metres and then go backwards!
78: And that sums it up, the Raiders lose the ball when trying to play it. It was their lasts chance. Hodkinson taking a breather on the bench, a well earned rest after a big week.
77: Raiders launching one last charge, but they are just falling short tonight. That Reece Robinson mistake on his own line could prove the difference.
75: Report from former Raider Brett Finch on the sideline, it's -1 degrees down at the field. it feels like it as well!
74: TRY!!! May be too little too late, Campese grubbers through and Milford is easily the first person to the ball. Scores the Raiders second try of the match, maybe there's a slim hope they can save this one. Croker converts. Raiders 14 Bulldogs 22
If the Raiders lose this one, they will have won just two of their seven games at home this year.
72: Welcome back Joel Edwards! Absolutely crunched by Inu, didn't see him coming. In the last two minutes we've head four knock ons! I know my fingers are about to fall off but I thought the players would be all over it. Might be a bit slippery out there tonight, who knows.
71: You've got to feel for first-gamer Brenko Lee. It just hasn't been his night. Another knock on then trying to clean up a kick, Bulldogs attack from 20 metres out. But then they drop it on the first tackle, Reynolds again. He's not having the best game, but Hodkinson carrying the Dogs.
Bulldogs fullback Mitch Brown looking pretty good tonight..
67: Message coming through from Canberra Times Sport boss calling for the Raiders to take the two points if they get a penalty within range. Fair enough given the way the Raiders' attack has been tonight. Seems their best option for scoring points..
66: The Raiders have bombed it again. They can't even get through their sets. Now the Bulldgos are attacking Greg Eastwood busts up and the big fella shows some good toe to get inside the Raiders' half!
Weather update. Getting hard to type capitals, fingers are a bit numb. If Caps Lock sticks on, apologies in advance.
The Bulldogs get a penalty for a late tackle and now they've got a set 10 metres out. It was Fensom taking out Reynolds. They've been at each other all night.
The Bulldogs decide to take the shot at goal instead of going for the kill. Gives them a 14-point buffer and could prove crucial. Hodkinson nails penalty. Raiders 8 Bulldogs 22
65: Raiders get a penalty after Jarrod Croker taken out chasing a kick and players are running from everywhere to grab jerseys. Seems a bit ridiculous with blokes just running in to grab each other. They might as well be cuddling. Mick Ennis arguing with the refs, filthy that they've decided to give Canberra an attacking set just 10 metres out.
65: The Bulldogs won five games in a row earlier this year, but they've lost their last three in a row. If they win this, it would be a huge boost to their season.
62: There are plenty of Raiders legends in the stands tonight, probably wishing they were out on the field helping the club. Brett Mullins was loving life earlier but I don't know if he'll be smiling with the Raiders battling. Josh McCrone is off with an injury and going straight up the tunnel. Raiders have just two interchanges left with 17 minutes to go.
61: Great defence Bulldogs! They strangled the Raiders there. A couple of little half breaks, but nothing that seriously threatened their try line. The Raiders struggling in this one, the Canberra chill not a problem for the Dogs.
58: Hodkinson is every tonight. Extremely impressive backing up from what he did for NSW on Wednesday night. Hasn't put a foot wrong tonight in defence or attack. Campese back on, Milford to five-eighth and McCrone to dummyhalf. Still Raiders 8 Bulldogs 20
52: Robinson was dropped from the team earlier in the week. But because Milford was away on Origin duty, Robinson was put back in. That mistake will haunt him forever. In all the excitement, Milford's on the field for Campese.
50: TRY! Oh no! that's a nightmare for the Raiders! The Bulldogs kicked through, Reece Robinson cleaned up but the Bulldogs chasers were right on him. He tried to get out of the in-goal, but in trying to promote the ball into the field of play, he loses the ball. The referee rules Robinson grounds the ball on the line and it's a drop out. But the Bulldogs rushed through, got the loose ball and Tim Lafai thinks he's got a gift try. What's the decision...TRY from the video referee! Overturns the on-field referee decision. Oh boy. Good persistence from the Dogs, but shocking from the Raiders. Hodkinson converts. Raiders 8 Bulldogs 20
49: Campo is back. Apparently only a cork on his medial ligament and he's warming up again. That's good news!
46: Terry Campese OFF. Was struggling in back play with what looked like a knee injury. Let's hope it's nothing serious. He's already had two knee reconstructions. Brent Tate could be going in for his fourth reconstruction. But no one wishes an injury on anyone. On the replay, it was almost as if nothing happened. That's not a good sign for knee ligaments..fingers crossed he's fine.
43: Anthony Milford still cooling his jets on the Raiders bench. But he's got the jacket off and is warming up now. Raiders on the attack early, but the Bulldogs clean up the kick and will run it out from their own line. Mitch Brown has been solid at fullback. But to be fair, the Raiders haven't had many attacking kicks to challenge him. Raiders 8 Bulldogs 14
Big respect for Bulldogs boss Raelene Castle, first time I've seen a club chief executive sitting in the outside media box in Canberra. What impresses me more is that she doesn't even look cold! Usually traveling officials are warm and cosy in a corporate box somewhere. But not tonight.
Back on for the second half. Spent the break warming my hands under inside. Got a warm cup of water to hold on to so I don't get frostbite.
HALF TIME: That ends a pretty disappointing 40 minutes for the Green Machine. And I say disappointing because they started so well. They blitzed the first 15 minutes and then it all started to crumble. Elementary mistakes opened the door for the Bulldogs and they lead 14-8 at half-time. There was a bizarre Canberra decision to take a penalty shot at goal instead of going on the attack. But the Bulldogs hit back with two late tries to take the lead. The good news is that there's only one try in it. Which for the Raiders is a major positive given they struggled through the last 20 minutes there.
The Dogs have been a bit of a mixed bag. They look good when they get within striking distance but are guilty of the same silly errors. They have failed to keep the ball after two kick-offs and only just lead despite scoring three tires to one. This game is up for grabs.
CANTERBURY BULLDOGS 14 (Drury Low 2, Corey Thompson tries; Trent Hodkinson 1 conversion) lead CANBERRA RAIDERS 8 (Jarrd Croker try, conversion, penalty)
39: Boy oh boy the Raiders are letting the Dogs off the hook way to easily. They win the ball from the kick-off in the last minute of the half and then drop it on the first tackle! It's the story of Canberra's season.
38: And there you have it, the Bulldogs go wide. Jack Wighton ruses up out of the Raiders' line and it's Drury Low coming back to haunt the Green Machine. Gets it down just inches inside the field of play. Low played in the Raiders under-20s premiership-winning side with Dugan, Croker and Fensom. But he never get a good chance in the NRL. Hodkinson misses. Raiders 8 Bulldogs 14
37: That turned sour for the Raiders pretty quick! Dogs get a 40-20, take the quick tap and now the visitors can score just before the break!
36: The Dogs survive. Joel Edwards drops it close to the line and the Dogs can rebuild.
35: Woah, there's the Origin hangover right there. The beers came back to haunt Josh Reynolds right there form the kickoff. He drops a high ball on his own line and the Raiders are gifted a chance to hit straight back. That was pretty embarrassing from an Origin player. Yes it's cold. Yes, there's a bit of dew. And yes, Reynolds would have just got the alcohol out of his system after a brilliant Origin win.
33: TRY redemption for Thompson. The Raiders wilted under a weight of possession. The Bulldogs swing it wide early, Inu puts the Raiders on the back foot and Thompson gets it early enough to dot down in the corner. It was almost a carbon copy of the try that was disallowed because of a forward pass. But this time Thompson has no drama. Hodkinson looking to put the Dogs in front for the first time...he nails it. Raiders 8 Bulldogs 10
32: Raiders giving away too many penalties to end this half. In other news, my breath is so cold that i can see it. Bulldogs pressing for another try.
27: TRY - Denied. Sorry Bulldogs fans, referees call forward pass from Mitch Brown to Corey Thompson. Thompson was in free space and touched down in the corner, but the play comes back and the Raiders get out of trouble.
24: Strange decision from the Raiders, they're taking the penalty attempt at goal after constant pressure at the Dogs line. Don't know if 8-4 is the answer to this contest. Terry Campese threw the ball in frustration when the instructions came out to take the shot. Think it was more in frustration at the Dogs giving away multiple penalties. But who knows. Croker converts. Raiders 8 Bulldogs 4.
23: Des obviously doesn't teach math at Belmore ... Bulldogs couldn't figure out how many players are needed in a scrum. When they were told it was six, Tony Williams ran in, then out, then someone else went back in. Raiders getting four sets in a row here at the Dogs' line.
21: You've got to love Josh Reynolds, don't ya! What a pest on the field, he knows how to get under players' skins. He cleaned up a Raiders grubber in goal and then the Raiders forced him over the deadball line. When he gets up, he throws the ball at Fensom and it's on! Bit of push and shove, Raiders still on the attack.
17: Kasiano tearing the Raiders. He ripped through the defence, bumped passed Brett White then Campo was hanging on for dear life. Compounding it, the Dogs win a penalty for offside and they're within striking distance again.
15: TRY to the Dogs! You've got to feel for the Raiders rookie there. His first mistake in the NRL leads to a Bulldogs try. The Dogs put on a decoy play, it swings wide to former Raider Drury Low and he beats two defenders to step inside and go over the line. Up until now the Raiders were dominating. They had the Dogs rattled early, but one mistake and it's all even. That will give the Bulldogs much needed confidence and be a blow to the Raiders. Hodkinson misses conversion. Raiders 6 Bulldogs 4
14: The Raiders were all over the Dogs in that set, had them pinned in their 30 metres after four tackles. But the Dogs find some space and then oh no!!! A Raiders knock on 5m from their line off the kick! It's debutant Brenko Lee. It was one of his first touches, Reynolds gets stuck into the teenager. Dogs get their best chance here.
12: Kasiano v Buttriss - who do you think wins that one? Yep, it's Kasiano. He just pushed Buttriss with his fingertips and Buttriss went flying almost 5m. Don't think Buttriss will be going back for more in that one. Dogs knock it on about 10m from the try line. Raiders get out of trouble, Green Machine defending well early on.
9: The Raiders look the goods tonight, Croker splits them on the left edge again with some good offloading. But after racing 50 metres, the ball is knocked loose as he attempts to pass it.
6: Raiders throwing it around, Bulldogs try to shut them down and the Raiders have the best attacking chance of the game. And it's a TRY!! Jarrod Croker gets through a small gap about 18 metres out. He slipped through a tackle, spun through another and then crashed over with a Bulldogs defender hanging off him. It all came off the back of a Bulldogs error. The Raiders were throwing it around on tackle four, the Bulldogs defender tipped it over the top. Raiders go on attack and score. Croker converts. Raiders 6 Bulldogs 0
4: It's a superb Canberra night. Icy cold, the fingers are almost falling off. Brenko Lee still waiting to touch the ball in his NRL debut. He's cousins with injured Raider Edrick Lee.
2: Both teams off to solid start, complete their first sets without drama and the Bulldogs working their way out of their own 20m
Both teams out there and ready to roll. Dogs trying to avoid losing three in a row, Raiders trying to resurrect their season and avoid missing the finals in back to back years for the first time since 1985-86
There were rumours earlier today that NSW Origin hero Trent Hodkinson would be out with a corked thigh. But he's going to team up with Reynolds in the halves. I spoke to Laurie Daley not long ago, still partying after NSW sealed their first Origin series win in eight years on Wednesday night. Hodkinson was the hero for the Blues, scoring the match-winning try. But Daley, in Canberra to celebrate Canberra's 20-year premiership reunion, said he can't be the hero tonight.
Raiders guru Ben Pollack reminding the crowd that this is a Channel 9 game tonight. The Raiders get minimal free-to-air coverage. But Canberra Times man Kyle Mackey-Laws informs me that the Raiders are 2 from 2 when it games to Channel 9 games this year. Can they do it again?
The Raiders are also celebrating their 1994 premiership tonight. NSW coach Laurie Daley is in the stands, as well as Sheens, Walters, Davico, Mullins et all. Will the Raiders lift for a game in front of some of the club's greatest players?
Brenko Lee making his NRL debut tonight. He's the cousin of injured Raider Edrick Lee.
Joel Edwards back into the team after a cheekbone injury.
The Raiders will also wear black armbands tonight for member Rob Barnes, who recently passed away.
1. Mitch Brown, 2. Corey Thompson, 3. Krisnan Inu, 4. Tim Lafai, 5. Drury Low, 6. Josh Reynolds, 7. Trent Hodkinson, 8. Sam Kasiano, 9. Mick Ennis, 10. James Graham, 11. Josh Jackson, 12. Tony Williams, 13. Greg Eastwood. Bench: 14. Dale Dinucane, 16. Tim Browne, 20. Reni Maitua, 22. Lloyd Perrett.
Plenty of changes in the line-ups for tonight.
Milford BENCH, Robinson IN. Sami Sauiluma OUT Brenko Lee IN. Jake Foster OUT Joel Edwards IN.
Raiders: 19. Reece Robinson, 2. Matt Allwood, 3. Jarrod Croker, 4. Jack Wighton, 18. Brenko Lee, 6. Terry Campese, 7. Josh McCrone, 8. David Shillington, 9. Glen Buttriss, 10. Brett White, 20. Joel Edwards, 12. Jarrad Kennedy, 13. Shaun Fensom. Bench: 1. Anthony Milford, 15. Kyle O'Donnell, 16. Dane Tilse, 17. Shannon Boyd.