Raiders hold out fast-finishing Knights
The Canberra Raiders have dominated the Newcastle Knights to score a 36-22 victory on a freezing cold night in the nation's capital.
The big victory is the Raiders' second significant win over the Knights in five weeks after notching a 44-22 point scoreline against the Novocastrians when these sides met in Round 13.
Both teams completed their sets at a high rate considering the dewy conditions, while the Knights surprisingly dominated possession with 61% of the ball throughout the game.
The fact that the Raiders had minimal possession and still dominated the scoreboard for most of the game was a testament to their ever-improving defence, particularly on their own goal-line.
Canberra were especially dominant in the first half thanks to the killer instincts, and all-round super play of one man: Blake Austin.
The dynamic five-eighth had the first hat-trick of his NRL career just 14 minutes and 31 seconds after kick-off to help the Raiders to a healthy 24-4 point lead at half-time.
He scored his first just 90 seconds into the match backing up off a long Jordan Rapana break after the Raiders elected to run the ball on the last tackle of their first attacking set.
He was in again six minutes later, this time the beneficiary of a huge midfield run from Paul Vaughan. Austin pushed up through the middle to claim an offload off the powerful Canberra prop before putting a wicked step on a hapless Kurt Gidley to score under the posts
Austin had his third soon after, having the most desire to chase through a Sam Williams grubber ahead of a number of Knights defenders.
Next over the line for Canberra was Jarrod Croker was claimed a deft Josh Hodgson grubber in behind the line to extend the Green Machine's advantage.
However, the Knights hit back in the 31st minute after some sloppy lead up play ended up with James McManus diving on a loose ball near the Raiders line. He dived over to bring the score to 24-4, as it would remain at the break.
After scoring a try in the State of Origin decider, Josh Papalii crossed two days later, just two minutes after the interval as Williams pierced through the Knights line with a smart dummy.
Papalii was pushing up in support to finish off the play and handed the Raiders a dominant 26-point advantage.
The big second-rower had his second moments later, once again thanks to good lead up work from the crafty Williams who this time put a perfect grubber through the line for Papalii to chase.
Jarrod Mullen showed his masterful passing game in the 54th minute hitting a wide open Akuila Uate square in the chest on the wing to put the Knights back on the scoreboard.
The Knights were in again after a period of dominating possession as Kade Snowden scored under the posts against a backtracking Raiders defence.
Newcastle would reduce the deficit further with seven minutes left to play as Uate went in for his second off the back of a sharp backline play out to the Knights right side. But it would be too little too late, with the Raiders holding on for a big win in front of their home supporters.
Canberra Raiders 36 (Austin 3, Papalii 2, Croker tries; Croker 6 goals) defeated Newcastle Knights 22 (Uate 2, Snowden, McManus tries; Roberts 3 goals) at GIO Stadium. Crowd: 6,015.