Raiders end Sharks' unbeaten streak
After his side's 54-4 win over the Rabbitohs last week, Raiders coach Ricky Stuart said he would have been happy to see his side get within three or four tries of the table-topping Sharks.
Canberra didn't just meet his expectations, they smashed them as the Green Machine snapped Cronulla's 16-game unbeaten streak with a dominant 30-14 win at Southern Cross Group Stadium to register their sixth win on the trot.
The loss of Michael Ennis (virus) before kick-off was a bitter blow for the Sharks with his opposite number, Josh Hodgson, the chief destroyer in suitably English conditions on Saturday night.
Canberra's No.9 was the difference, setting up two tries, racking up 40 tackles and running for 125 metres to confirm his side's status as genuine premiership contenders.
Two high shots on Paul Gallen in the same tackle gifted James Maloney an easy two points from next to the sticks to give the Sharks the lead inside five minutes.
A stunning passage of play from the next set looked to have ended with a Cronulla try from a Raiders error, but the bunker spared Brenko Lee's blushes after it was ruled Chad Townsend was in front of Luke Lewis when he grubbered through.
The review officials were called into action shortly after to award Canberra the opening try of the evening when Jordan Rapana reeled in a cross-field kick to cross for his 14th try of the season.
Cleared by the judiciary earlier in the week, Maloney took full advantage of his reprieve to slice through from close range to put the Sharks back in front.
Having scored a double in the corresponding clash last year, Raiders fullback Jack Wighton continued his love affair with the Shire, crashing through some soft defence on the last tackle to make it 12-8 for the visitors.
From the next set, Josh Hodgson showed why he is regarded as one of the best players at Canberra, slicing through the ruck on his own side of halfway before sizing up his options to eventually grubber through for Rapana to grab his second.
An infringement in the ruck allowed Jarrod Croker to nudge the margin out to two converted tries and the Raiders skipper increased his side's buffer with another penalty goal early in the second half to give the Green Machine a 22-8 lead.
After going nearly 40 minutes without scoring a point, the Sharks finally breached the opposition's line with Gallen diving over to finish off some desperate play from teammate Andrew Fifita.
The home side's joy was short-lived after Blake Austin was awarded a try by the bunker despite the on-field officials having initially ruled a double movement.
A special bit of play from the Sharks went unrewarded moments later when some slick hands from the backs almost led to a crucial try to Sosaia Feki, only for the winger to put a foot into touch as he attempted to ground the ball.
Croker's fourth penalty goal of the evening made it 30-14 with 13 minutes remaining, and that's how it stayed, cementing Canberra's spot in the Telstra Premiership top four with four rounds remaining.
Raiders 30 (Jordan Rapana 2, Jack Wighton, Blake Austin tries; Jarrod Croker 7 goals) defeated Sharks 14 (James Maloney, Paul Gallen tries; James Maloney 3 goals) at Southern Cross Group Stadium. Half-time: 20-8 Raiders. Crowd: 15,133.