Raiders too slick for error-prone Knights
The Canberra Raiders have dismantled a woeful Newcastle Knights outfit 44-22 to clinch their first win in a month.
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart would have had no complaints about this one as Canberra dominated from the get-go, with their halves Sam Williams (four try assists) and Blake Austin (a try assist and two tries) steering the ship with great effect.
"We were a bit smarter in areas of our game," Stuart said after the win.
"We played with a lot of heart, energy and a lot of desire but we worked harder this week in being smarter with parts of our play especially on the end of our sets."
The Raiders looked likely from the start when winger Edrick Lee raced away after four minutes at the end of a sweeping 70-metre movement. Five-eighth Austin ran into a gaping hole before putting in a grubber kick for his winger to score. Jarrod Croker's conversion gave the Canberra captain his 1000th career point.
Croker kicked his side eight ahead when he sunk a penalty goal in the 14th minute after opposite captain Kurt Gidley failed to square up at marker. Soon after, Newcastle lock Jack Stockwell was ruled out of the game with an biceps injury.
Lee's height proved beneficial for the Raiders' next try in the 17th minute when the former basketball player outleaped opposite man Akuila Uate and latched on to a Williams kick to score his second.
The Knights defence opened right back up in the 20th minute when simple Raiders decoy plays left the home side reeling and allowed Jack Wighton to run through a huge gap to score Canberra's third try of the afternoon.
In the home side's first proper attacking chance of the afternoon in the 26th minute, Newcastle winger Uate was able to finish off a neat backline movement to finally put points on the board for the home team.
Poor Raiders discipline saw the Knights enter good territory again which paid dividends when a pinpoint accurate grubber from Gidley bounced underneath a diving Austin and into the hands of his centre Joey Leilua on the half hour mark.
The Raiders were able to peg one back on the Knights two minutes from half-time when back-rower Josh Papalii powered his way past Carlos Tuimavave to ensure a 14-point lead at the break.
The Knights kept themselves afloat seven minutes into the second half when Uate pegged one back on Lee, outleaping him to bat a Gidley kick into the hands of centre Sione Mata'utia to cut the deficit to eight.
After the Knights lost Beau Scott temporarily to a head knock, the Raiders hit back in the 56th minute when a wayward bomb from Williams saw centre Sisa Waqa bat the ball back infield for Austin to score under the uprights.
Austin scored his second try four minutes later, dummying past Tariq Sims to push the lead out to 20.
The Knights tried their best to kick-start another mini-revival in the 64th minute when fullback Dane Gagai finished off a 35-metre run to score under the sticks but another Croker penalty goal and further try from the captain in the 75th minute sealed a 22-point win for the Raiders.
Canberra Raiders 44 (Edrick Lee 2, Blake Austin 2, Jack Wighton, Josh Papalii, Jarrod Croker Tries; Jarrod Croker 8 Goals) defeated Newcastle Knights 22 (Akuila Uate, Joey Leilua, Sione Mata'utia, Dane Gagai Tries; Kurt Gidley 3 Goals) at Hunter Stadium. Crowd: 13,504. Half-time: Raiders 24-10.