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BIG men, big hits, slick ball movement, precise kicking, fine skills in greasy conditions, lightning-quick play-the-balls, top tries and some dodgy video refereeing all went together to entertain fans at ANZ Stadium Monday evening.

After an even first half, the Raiders went on to touch up Souths, playing some great footy to keep their finals dream alive. Their big forwards provided a great platform for their talented backs to keep the ball singing and run in some fine rugby league tries. Easily their best performance this season.

The Bunnies didn’t do that much wrong, though their ball security was patchy and they didn’t have much of a crack in the second-half. They scored three good tries in the first half and were well in the game. But in the second stanza seemed to go into their shell as the big Raiders forwards belted them and ran at them like Viking raiders.

Overall this was a good game of footy in which the more adventurous team won.

The Game Swung When … Just after half-time Dane Tilse crashed over following some excellent, ball-in-hand play from what looked like just about all of his team-mates. When Tilse’s fellow ‘twin tower’ Tom Learoyd-Lahrs – who had a huge game – scored his own ‘meat pie’, and Marc Herbert converted, all the running was with Canberra. When another giant Raiders forward in Nigel Plum crashed over, the Raiders had won by a landslide.

In the first 10 minutes it was all Canberra. The Bunnies only had one set of six tackles because of a Raiders 40/20, penalties against Souths and Luke Capewell booting one out on the full.

The teams went to half-time with the Raiders up by two points. But it was all Canberra in the second term; they played more creative, less “frightened” rugby league and very much deserved the two competition points.

Who Was Hot… The Raiders had plenty of contributors.

In the absence of Terry Campese, Raiders halves Herbert and Josh McCrone kicked beautifully, the latter landing a great 40/20. Herbert was great for his team, providing slick service to his men outside and calling the ball when he’d pin-pointed opposition weak spots.

Fullback David Milne ran hard and straight (two line breaks) while Joel Monaghan (three offloads) looked good on the right.

But it was the Raiders’ forwards who won this game.

Trevor Thurling ran hard and wide with some penetration, Josh Miller ran hard, straight and often, while Bronson Harrison did some creative things running wide. Dane Tilse (13 runs, 123 metres) had a big game and scored a try, while fellow prop Scott Logan (14 runs, 106 metres) was strong.

Their standout big man, though, was Learoyd-Lahrs (14 runs, 125 metres) who bent giant holes in the Bunnies’ line and scored the match-winning try. In a game of big men, Leahroyd-Lahrs is a monster. Also possesses an interesting name. What is it? American-Swedish?

For the Bunnies, Beau Champion was strong and involved (14 runs, 117 metres) while Eddie Pettybourne (10 runs, 30 tackles) again impressed. John Sutton was the Bunnies’ best with great passing to his men out wide and precision kicking.

Who Was Not… Sutton didn’t get enough opportunity. Souths didn’t get the ball to him in good position often enough. And they can all put their hands up.

And the Bunnies’ defence could best be described as threadbare.

And when they had the ball they didn’t have a crack.

They’ll be disappointed with this performance. It was lacklustre.

Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… Early in the first half Raiders’ hooker Glen Buttriss ran out of dummy-half and found Herbert on the run. Herbert stepped and straightened and popped a beautiful ball off his hip to Milne who poured on the pace, split the line and ran around the fullback to score.

In the 13th minute, a nice ball by Sutton, double-pumping a pass that drew the man in front of him before putting Luke Capewell in enough space to fly over out wide.

In the 19th minute, well inside their own half, the Raiders ran it on the fifth tackle. When did that happen last? Particularly in the first half? The Raiders eventually did okay, their running and quick hands transported the pill over the halfway line and beyond. And with some more players backing up they might have kept it alive. Worth a crack. Why not?

And then in the 68th minute, big Learoyd-Lahrs belted Big Roy Asotasi, and the letters “A”, “N” and “Z” almost shook off the stadium’s sign.

Bad Boys… None.

Refs Watch… Joel Monaghan powered over the line in the fifth minute with defenders Chris Sutton and Fetuli Talanoa wrestling, trying to keep the ball off the turf. Did they? Ashley Klein couldn’t be sure so he sent it upstairs where Phil Cooley sent it back – “Ref’s Call”. Klein then pointed to the spot – “Try” – probably because there was benefit of the doubt. Good call Ashley but isn’t it a cop-out by Cooley? Why not benefit of the doubt? Because there was doubt. And the attacking player was making a play and the ball probably grazed the grass. What’s the point of “Ref’s Call” anyway? Benefit of the doubt should be the final arbiter if there is doubt.

In the 29th minute Cooley was called on again, and again made a decision plenty would disagree with. After a fine kick by Sutton, the ball was well taken by Nathan Merritt who touched down to score. The question mark, however, was whether Raiders centre Jarrod Croker was prevented from competing in the air by a nudge in the back by Beau Champion. It’s plain that he was. Steve Lyons sent it upstairs to Cooley in the box who… pushed the “Try” button. Best & Fairest… 3 points – Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (Raiders): A huge game from a man-mountain; 2 points – Josh Miller (Raiders): 14 runs and 113 metres off the bench from a straight-running battering ram; 1 point – Marc Herbert (Raiders): Set his backs free and kept his forwards going forward with fine kicking.

Raiders 34 (J Monaghan, D Milne, M Herbert, D Tilse, T Learoyd-Lahrs, N Plum tries; Marc Herbert 5 goals) def Rabbitohs 18 (F Talanoa 2, L Capewell, N Merritt tries; I Luke goal) at ANZ Stadium. Crowd: 9,805.

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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