Canberra Raiders within touching distance of top with win over Brisbane Broncos

Two points. That's all that separates the Canberra Raiders from the top of the NRL ladder. But for a late try to the Brisbane Broncos, they would've been there.

Instead they'll have to settle for third on the back of their 26-22 win at Canberra Stadium on Sunday.

If they'd won by six instead of four then they would've jumped ahead of Melbourne and the Sydney Roosters.

Raiders' Nick Cotric. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Raiders' Nick Cotric. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Not that Raiders coach Ricky Stuart cared. Winning's all he's worried about. It was their fourth straight to go to a 5-1 win-loss record - their best start to a season since 2003 - in front of 17,193 fans.

He labelled it a "massive effort", the way they were able to fight back after losing control of the game and the lead to steady and get the win. Surviving a late scare as well.

Stuart said the focus would be on recovery this week after a tough month of footy that's seen them conquer all comers except the Storm.

He felt fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad was OK after he sent a scare through the camp when Broncos five-eighth Anthony Milford slid head first into his leg, hyperextending his knee.

Nicoll-Klokstad finished the game, and was covered head to toe in ice in the sheds, finishing with 216 metres and covering plenty of territory.

"That doesn't worry me [not being top]. Winning's the thing that worries me. When we have been winning recently we've been winning by big points, but we can't defend," Stuart said.

"Now we're putting a lot of pride into our defence. That's the important part for me at the moment is the way they're defending and showing that resilient, comfortable style defence."

The Green Machine took control of the game from the start, with winger Nick Cotric scoring off the back of a Jarrod Croker offload before Brisbane halfback Kodi Nikorima levelled the scores against the run of play.

But the Raiders went into half-time leading 14-4 thanks to a one-two punch from centre Joey Leilua, beating five Broncos to score the first and then getting on the end of a John Bateman offload for the second.

His improved defence will have him coming into the State of Origin conversation now as well.

Tries to David Fifita and Corey Oates had the visitors as shock leaders with 24 minutes remaining, but a Jack Wighton 40-20 changed the game.

Bateman crossed as a result and then Ryan Sutton was over from a crazy play that included a Wighton header in the build-up.

Joey Leilua of the Raiders scores a try. Photo: AAP

Joey Leilua of the Raiders scores a try. Photo: AAP

A late try to Jack Bird gave the Broncos some hope, but the Raiders held on.

It broke the Broncos' six-game winning streak between the sides.

"They're a lot more mature group this year and they're an easier team to coach this year because there's individuals growing up," Stuart said.

"When that happens you don't have to baby blokes as much.

"When you've got a little bit of depth you don't have to pat blokes on the back, you can be a little bit more honest to them when you have to tell them the truth about certain parts of their game."

The Raiders travel to Brookvale to play Manly next week, while the struggling Broncos host Cronulla.

AT A GLANCE

CANBERRA RAIDERS 26 (Joey Leilua 2, Nick Cotric, John Bateman, Ryan Sutton tries; Jarrod Croker 3 goals) bt BRISBANE BRONCOS 22 (Kodi Nikorima, David Fifita, Corey Oates, Jack Bird tries; Jamayne Isaako 3 goals) at Canberra Stadium. Referees: Matt Cecchin, Adam Cassidy. Crowd: 17,193.