Sharks player Todd Carney leaves the field with an ankle injury. Photo: Melissa Adams
The Canberra Raiders have broken a 12-year finals hoodoo in the capital and advanced to the next stage of the NRL play-offs after beating the Cronulla Sharks 34-16 today.
After conceding the first try, the Raiders took the lead midway through the first half and never lost it in a tense finals battle at Canberra Stadium.
The Raiders destroyed the Sharks with their right-side attack with Sandor Earl and Blake Ferguson both scoring two tries each.
Canberra Raiders player, Sandor Earl celebrates with Blake Ferguson after scoring his second try. Photo: Melissa Adams
The Sharks closed the gap to just two points late in the second half, but the Raiders rode a wave of support from 24,450 fans and stormed to an 18-point win.
It was the first time they had won a final at home since beating the Penrith Panthers in 2000.
Former Raiders badboy Todd Carney left the field injured in the second half with an Achilles problem after "it felt like someone shot me".
Fans out in force for the Raiders v Sharks elimination final
Fans flock to Canberra Stadium in green to cheer the Raiders as they tackle the Cronulla Sharks on Sunday, September 9. Photo: Melissa Adams
The Raiders will now play the South Sydney Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium in the next stage of the finals on Saturday night.
That's it from out here at Canberra Stadium. Hope you enjoyed the blog. We'll be back live next week as the Green Machine bandwagon rolls on for at least one more week in September.
FULL-TIME: CANBERRA RAIDERS 34 (Sandor Earl 2, Blake Ferguson 2, Josh Papalii, Glen Buttriss, Sam Williams tries; Jarrod Croker 2 conversions, penalty) bt CRONULLA SHARKS 16 (Ricky Leutele, Wade Graham, Nathan Stapleton tries; Todd Carney, Nathan Stapleton conversions) at Canberra Stadium yesterday. Referees: Tony Archer and Chris James. Crowd: 24,450.
Raiders fans. Photo: Karleen Minney
79min: TRY! And Sam Williams puts the icing on the cake. There were some nervous moments for the Raiders in the second half, but Williams' out-streteched right hand books the Raiders spot in the final against the South Sydney Rabbitohs on Saturday night. Blake Ferguson misses. Raiders 34-16.
75min: TRY! Ferguson adds more salt to the Sharks' wounds with his second try. He did it with style, too. He picked up a pass of his boot laces and slams the ball down in the corner. Ferguson revs up the crowd in the far corner. This one's over! Dugan misses. Raiders 30-16.
70min: TRY! It's another one for the Green Machine and the sea of green flags goes up again. This time it's Golen Buttriss fooling the Sharks' defence, slips close to the line and just gets over. Dugan misses again. Raiders 26-16.
69min: The Sharks kick it dead off the restart and all of a sudden the crowd has come back to life! They can almost taste the Raiders' first win in a home final since 2000. In other news, possible broken jaw for Jarrod Croker. He copped an accidental knee from Jayson Bukuya.
67min: TRY! And guess who, Blake Ferguson! The man who left Cronulla because he wanted a chance to win a premiership just made the move pay off when his rose above the Sharks' defence, grabbed the ball and gets it down. Is it the nail in the Sharks' coffin? Josh Dugan misses the conversion. Raiders 22-16.
62min: There hasn't been this much excitement at the AIS precinct since there was a Wiggles concert across the road at the AIS Arena. We've got a cracker finish coming up. Margin is two points, into the final quarter.
60min: TRY! But the crowd is blowing up. Nathan Stapleton goes over in the corner, but the final pass from Isaac Gordon appeared almost 1m forward. The Raiders players blow up about the forward pass and perhaps an obstruction. Shillington and McCrone getting stuck in. Stapleton misses conversion. Raiders 18-16.
58min: Gee this Canberra crowd is harsh. An injured Carney is shown in the big screen talking to Brad Fitler and they didn't miss a chance to get stuck into the once Canberra golden child. Carney said he "felt like someone shot me", will have scans tomorrow.
55min: PENALTY. Croker gets hit high by Jeremy Smith and the crowd is calling for him to be sent off. Instead, Smith is put on report, Croker lines up a shot at goal and Paul Gallen gives the referees an earfull because he thinks the Green Machine are getting, well, the rub of the green. Croker converts. Raiders 18-12.
54min: VIDEO REFEREE. Oh the Sharks are on a roll! Jeff Robson walked through a gaping hole and looks like he's scored. But the referees go upstairs and it's ruled no try because of an obstruction from Jeremy Smith.
53min: All the momentum with the Sharks now. A great kick gives the Sharks an attacking scrum 10m out. Game on. The Raiders fans have gone a bit quiet, they can't believe what's happening.
50min: No news on Carney yet, but the crowd cheered when he left the field. Initial reports he heard a "snap" and he won't be back today. The Sharks drop the ball in the next set and the Raiders have a chance to hit back.
49min: TRY! It's all happening here at Canberra Stadium. Wade Graham goes over, but the pass from Colin Best appeared to go forward. The referees miss it and Graham scores. But in the back play, Todd Carney was carried from the field and went straight up the tunnel with what looked like an ankle injury. Nathan Stapleton converts. Raiders 16-12.
45min: The sun is almost gone in Canberra, going to be a chilly evening. The Sharks have had a couple of good chances to start the half, but they fail to take them.
41min: We're back for the second half and the Raiders are still fired up. They're searching for their first finals win in Canberra since 2000. Raiders 16-6.
HALF-TIME: Something for those who love their stats.. Tackles: Sharks 154, Raiders 123. Completions: Raiders 13/18, Sharks 10/16. Penalties: Two each. Line breaks: Raiders 3, Sharks 1. Errors: Sharks 6, Raiders 5
HALF-TIME: Raiders lead by 10 points after dominating the last 30 minutes of the first half. They're being physical and expansive. The Sharks haven't had the ball. Sandor Earl (two) and Josh Papalii have the Raiders' tries. Ricky Leutele opened the scoring for the Sharks. Raiders 16-6.
39min: The Sharks aren't happy with the physical treatment they're copping. Josh Papalii just drilled Wade Graham and then Paul Gallen said to Tony Archer: "He's got me twice, I'm going to get him back." Archer's reply: "Be careful".
36min: TRY! The Raiders are in again and Josh McCrone is having a cracker. This time he passes off his knees to Josh Papalii who strolls over the line for the Raiders' third try just before the break. They needed it after dominating possession and territory. Croker converts. Raiders 16-0.
33min: It's taken almost an entire half but we've got some finals biff. Josh Dugan was taken in the air by Andrew Fifita and they started running in from everywhere. I even thought Victor the Viking might get out there. But it ended almost faster than it started and Raiders are back on attack.
28min: We've got a great battle going on here. It's fast paced and end to end. Only a few mistakes, but the Raiders are holding the upper hand. Sharks are clinging on, but doing a good job to still be in it.
24min: Canberra Stadium could explode if this keeps going. Croker and Reece Robinson carry Isaac Gordon over the sideline and another attacking set for the Raiders. The "Raiders" chant going around the ground. The Sharks can't get their hands on the ball, they haven't had it for 10minutes.
21min: TRY! It's the second in two minutes for the Green Machine. That was absolutely stunning! Sam Williams made a strong bust down the left side. He off loads to Jarrod Croker on his inside but the Sharks defence desperately scramble. But before they can tackle him, Croker kicks it across field and Earl has his second. Canberra is buzzing. Croker converts. Raiders 10-6.
19min: TRY! This time to the Raiders and the crowd erupts in a sea of green flags and jerseys. Josh McCrone throws a superb cut-out ball to Sandor Earl who dashes 15 metres to get the Raiders back in the match. Jarrod Croker misses conversion. Sharks 6-4.
17min: So the prediction of game changer might have been a bit premature. The Sharks' defence holds strong for the first time in the match. The Raiders defended for the first 14 minutes of the game. Still Sharks 6-0.
14min: Game changer! A massive kick from Josh Dugan sneaks by Isaac Gordon and hits his foot. The ball rolls out and the Raiders get their first attacking chance with a scrum 10m out.
10min: You'd think in the finals the referees would know the players' names. Tony Archer just got Josh Papalii's name wrong. Called him Joe. Papalii was in trouble for a high shot on Sharks captain Paul Gallen and they're back on the attack.
6min: TRY! The Sharks have all possession in the opening minutes and it's a short ball from Tupou to Ricky Leutele for the first try. Carney - getting plenty of boos - slots the goal and it's 6-0 to the Sharkies. Horror start from the Raiders, Ferguson's mistake opened the door for that one. Sharks 6-0.
5min: I'll bet Blake Ferguson is glad this match is in Canberra, not Cronulla. He doesn't get along too well with the Sharks fans these days. But it will be Toddy Carney copping it all day from the lime-green crowd.
3min: The Sharks will get the first attacking chance. Blake Ferguson throws a speculator pass and it goes forward. There's a fantastic atmosphere out here.
1min: We're underway, the Sharks kicked off and the Raiders successfully get it out of their own end. A few spare seats as the Green Machine bandwagon hits Canberra.
4.06pm: Just about kick-off here. Teams are back in the sheds, there's a bumper crowd and the eastern side of the ground is bathed in sunshine. It promises to be a spectacular clash, let's hope it lives up to the hype.
4pm: News from out in the crowd from roving reporter Lee Gaskin. Former Raiders badboy Todd Carney cops it from the crowd when he gets announced. This could go two ways, Carney could tear the Raiders apart or it could be a long day for the Goulburn junior.
3.50pm: The Raiders' under-20s team got the day off to a great start for the Green Machine. Anthony Milford kicked a field goal as the hooter sounded for a 39-38 win over the Warriors. They're straight through to the preliminary final.
3.43pm: Massive cheer for the Raiders as they run on to the field to warm up. Not many spare seats left. Here are the team changes.. Raiders: no changes, Sam Williams, Josh Dugan and Tom Learoyd-Lahrs all good to go. Sharks: Isaac Gordon to fullback and John Williams is out. Matthew Wright to the wing. Ben Ross is out, Mark Taufua into starting side and Wade Graham on to the bench.
2.53pm: It's a superb day out here at Canberra Stadium for the Raiders taking on the Sharks in the 6th v 7th. Main game kicks at 4pm and the crowd is already building. Some have said there are more here already than at a few games during the regular season. Plenty of green out there as well. No team changes have come through yet.
Preamble: Join Chris "Blocka" Dutton as he takes you through the elimination final, ball by ball, metre by metre. The Sharks have struggled at the back end of the season, and the Raiders are on a roll. But this is finals footy, and anything can happen.