Raiders run riot against ragged Rabbitohs
The Canberra Raiders have moved up to third on the Telstra Premiership ladder with a record-breaking 54-4 win over an out-of-sorts South Sydney side at ANZ Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Canberra's fifth win on the trot sets up a mouth-watering clash against the Sharks next week in Cronulla, while the Bunnies have slumped to eight straight losses to sit in 13th spot on the ladder.
On an afternoon when everything went right for the Raiders, Jarrod Croker moved past 200 points for the season with a personal haul of 18 in what was also their biggest ever win over the Rabbitohs.
South Sydney's afternoon was made worse with five-eighth Luke Keary limping off in the 10th minute with a hamstring injury, while Angus Crichton and Luke Bateman also failed to finish the match with concussion.
The loss of Keary caused problems for the Rabbitohs' left-edge defence with the Raiders running in six tries down that side with Joey Leilua and Jordan Rapana dominating against their makeshift opponents.
Zane Musgrove's first game in the NRL since Round 1 didn't get off to a great start, spilling a ball he wasn't expecting to receive to gift the Raiders an early chance to post points.
The competition's fourth-best attack rarely needs an invitation to score, and from the ensuing set Rapana batted back an Aidan Sezer cross-field kick to send Elliott Whitehead over for the game's opening try.
A sustained period of pressure on their own line tested Canberra's defence, but after absorbing everything the Rabbitohs could throw at them the Green Machine extended their lead with Rapana proving too strong out of dummy-half.
The lead quickly ballooned out to 14 points when a Sezer grubber caused all sorts of problems in the in-goal, and despite some interference on Jarrod Croker, Edrick Lee still managed to ground it for his fifth try of the season.
Nothing seemed to be going right for the Bunnies as an Adam Reynolds chip and chase ended up in the hands of Leilua who fended through the first line of defence to race away for his side's fourth of the afternoon.
It was 22-0 at the break the last time these sides met at ANZ Stadium, but a sublime grubber out of acting half from Leilua to set up Rapana for his second of the day made it 26-0 this time around for the Raiders.
The change of ends did very little to halt Canberra's irrepressible momentum as a stray pass was pounced on by Jack Wighton who streaked clear to push the lead past 30.
It took nearly 55 minutes, but having gone close moments earlier, the Rabbitohs finally breached Canberra's line with John Sutton crawling over to bring up his 50th career try in the NRL.
Any thoughts of a comeback were quickly put to bed as Croker latched onto an exquisite cut out pass from Josh Hodgson to crash over for his 15th try of 2016.
Tries to Blake Austin, Sia Soliola and Whitehead – his second for the day – blew the margin out to 50, eclipsing Canberra's 48-0 win over the Rabbitohs back in 1990 at the Sydney Football Stadium.
Raiders 54 (Elliott Whitehead 2, Jordan Rapana 2, Edrick Lee, Joey Leilua, Jack Wighton, Jarrod Croker, Blake Austin, Sia Soliola tries; Jarrod Croker 7 goals) defeated Rabbitohs 4 (John Sutton try) at ANZ Stadium. Half-time: Raiders 26-0. Crowd: 10,076. Injuries; Luke Keary (hamstring), Luke Bateman (concussion), Edrick Lee (leg), Angus Crichton (concussion).