Blake Austin inspires Raiders miracle win over Bulldogs
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Blake Austin inspires Raiders miracle win over Bulldogs

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Blake Austin take a bow. Dropped to the bench, the Canberra Raiders five-eighth came on to inspire a miraculous Green Machine comeback.

Normally it's the Raiders giving up leads, but they scored three converted tries in the last five minutes to beat the Canterbury Bulldogs 32-28 at Belmore on Saturday night.

Austin came off the bench with just 15 minutes to go, looking dangerous from his very first run - a line break.

Blake Austin celebrates the comeback victory.

Blake Austin celebrates the comeback victory.Credit:NRL Photos/Gregg Porteous

He scored a try, set up another and was involved in everything in the dying minutes.

Raiders captain Jarrod Croker was confident his running five-eighth was going to have that sort of impact.

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"Yeah I did. I spoke to him at half-time when he hadn't been on about controlling his energy, like a frog in a sock," he said.

"When he did come on we needed him to not be controlled, we needed to go out there and lift us and add a bit of spark.

"When Brad [Abbey] got injured there, he was the one buzzing around talking to everyone, 'We have time, we have time'.

"I didn't think we had time, but he was right."

Raiders centre Joey Leilua went from villain to hero to score the winning try in the final minute, having earlier given away a penalty that sparked back-to-back Bulldogs tries to set up their 28-14 lead.

Canberra coach Ricky Stuart said the Bulldogs deserved to win, but was full of praise for Austin's match-winning effort.

He was unsure what he would do with his halves pairing next week, whether to bring Austin back into the starting line-up or stick with Sam Williams and Aidan Sezer.

The fitness of Abbey (concussion) and winger Jordan Rapana (hamstring) could play a role in the decision.

"Blake, he's copped a lot this week and he's had a tough week, and I feel really good for Blake right now because he won that for us," Stuart said.

"Just coming on and giving us that bit of extra spark and then BJ [Leilua] scoring that try in that right corner was good to get it."

It keeps alive the Raiders' slim hopes of making the top eight, needing to win seven of their final eight games.

They host the struggling North Queensland Cowboys at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night.

 Joey Leilua scores the match winner.

Joey Leilua scores the match winner.Credit:NRL Photos/Gregg Porteous

Austin's cameo overshadowed Bulldogs second-rower Rhyse Martin's hat-trick. He also scored all but four of Canterbury's 28 points.

The win might've come at a loss for the Green Machine with Shannon Boyd limping off with a calf injury and Abbey stretchered off, while second-rower Joe Tapine was put on report for a dangerous tackle on Bulldogs hooker Michael Lichaa.

Lichaa was forced off for a head-injury assessment, but finished the game.

Stuart's decision to change his halves pairing and give Williams his first start since the round-five win over the Bulldogs didn't get off to a good start with Williams' first kick going out on the full.

But he responded to score the Raiders' opening try as Croker terrorised his opposite number Kerrod Holland.

Croker went through Holland for both of their first two tries, setting up Williams and scoring one himself.

Raiders errors and penalties would set the early tone of the game as the home side dominated possession, with the Green Machine spending plenty of time camped on their own line.

Bulldogs halfback Jeremy Marshall-King opened the scoring, going straight through the middle of the Raiders' line off the back of the scrum.

The Raiders 10-8 half-time lead didn't last long, with Martin scoring the first of his hat-trick at the start of the second half and then his second and third tries set-up what appeared to be a match-winning lead in the space of four minutes.

Wedged in amongst Martin's, Canberra winger Nick Cotric scored his ninth try in his last eight games.

Then enter Austin stage left for arguably his most important 15 minutes of the season.

AT A GLANCE

CANBERRA RAIDERS 32 (Sam Williams, Jarrod Croker, Nick Cotric, Blake Austin, Joe Tapine, Joey Leilua tries; Jarrod Croker 4 goals) bt CANTERBURY BULLDOGS 28 (Rhyse Martin 3, Jeremy Marshall-King tries; Rhyse Martin 6 goals) bt  at Belmore. Referees: Grant Atkins, Gavin Badger. Crowds: 10,145.

David Polkinghorne covers the Canberra Raiders, local rugby league, Canberra Cavalry, racing and cycling, along with every other sport, for The Canberra Times.