Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has praised the efforts of his forward pack in helping close out a tough 30-18 win over South Sydney in sweltering heat, despite losing second-rower Joel Edwards and workhorse lock Shaun Fensom to injury during the game.
"That was a real team effort today, the way that middle unit worked and worked under fatigue and worked tired was a great credit to them, I'm really proud of how they were so diligent to the disciplines in their defence and their workloads," Stuart said.
"They had to take on a lot of extra workload from not having 'Fenno' out there. He's a great loss to us Shaun Fensom, I don't know how long he's out for."
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Fensom reportedly suffered a torn ligament in his right elbow.
Stuart revealed he didn't carry a back rower on the bench (which featured hooker Josh McCrone, and props Shannon Boyd, Dane Tilse and Paul Vaughan) in anticipation of preparing for a hot game where the props would need plenty of breaks.
"I thought it was going to pay dividends when it was hot today but I didn't expect to lose a back rower. But then we lost two so it was very hard," Stuart said after Fensom left the field with an elbow injury in the 32nd minute and then Edwards was concussed by a rampaging George Burgess hit-up in the 48th.
"I really thought we did [match it with their forwards] considering we lost two of our really good players in Shaun and Joely Edwards early in the second half. The guys in the middle, they were out on their feet a number of times. We finished that second half with 15 men. That's a really big effort and it comes from what's within."
The losses of those players looked like taking on extra significance after South Sydney scored the first two tries of the second half and almost scored a third, potentially closing the gap to four points. Yet Nathan Merritt's touch-down inside the right corner was overruled due to Sam Burgess, who had played the ball, kicking back a loose ball from an offside position following John Sutton's grubber from dummy-half.
Raiders captain Terry Campese said the players spoke about lifting and soon after reversed the momentum. They soon after went the length of the field to score and stretch the lead back out to 28-12.
"Deano [assistant coach Dean Pay] came on and gave us a message to keep our heads up. We were in the game obviously, we were quite confident it wasn't a try, we had to turn it again because they were running all over us at that point," Campese said.
"Boydy [prop Shannon Boyd] sparked us, he had that first carry and poked his head through the line.
"Shillo [Dave Shillington] had a couple of great efforts there late in that second half, it showed we were working for each other, you can tell the boys in the middle... it's one of those days you were glad you were on the edge."