Spine the backbone of Canberra's success
It was their defence that got them the win, but Canberra's spine played a huge role in the Raiders' deserved 30-14 victory over the Sharks at Southern Cross Group Stadium on Saturday night.
Fullback Jack Wighton and five-eighth Blake Austin both scored a try, halfback Aidan Sezer set up another, while dummy-half Josh Hodgson was the star of the show with two try assists in a dominant display away from home.
Injuries at the start of the year threatened to stall Canberra's new halves combination, but a prolonged run of good health from both Sezer and Austin has catapulted the Raiders into third spot on the Telstra Premiership ladder on the back of six straight wins.
The latter was forced from the field with 20 minutes to play with a rotator cuff injury on Saturday, but the initial prognosis is that Austin could in fact line up next week against the Melbourne Storm.
His partner in the halves said their combination was steadily improving each week, and with the bulk of their squad still relatively young, was quietly optimistic about something special brewing in the nation's capital.
"It's getting along well. It's improving each week and that's the most promising thing from our point of view," Sezer told NRL.com.
"I'm new playing in this spine so getting combinations right is the biggest thing for me.
"All these boys had a year together last year so getting that chemistry and figuring out each other's games is the biggest thing for me. We've had about 15 games together now so we're starting to see some of that come off.
"A lot of the guys in this squad have been together for a few years now, and with such a youthful team, there are good things happening here."
Despite knocking off the previously table-topping Sharks on their home turf Sezer was careful not to get too ahead of himself, especially given Canberra's tricky run home.
The Raiders play the Storm in Round 23 before finishing the season with games against the Eels, Sea Eagles and Tigers (the last two away from home).
"You obviously want to put yourself in the best position possible for the finals, and that's what we're trying to do," he said.
"We need to keep winning in order to give ourselves the best platform for the big games at the end of the year, but a lot of things can change in a month.
"We've got the Storm in a week and then a few more good teams after that so we can't look too far ahead to the finals.
"They're a clinical team so we'll have to be on our game just to get close to them. We're going back home so I guess that's an advantage for us."
Despite his measured approach leading into the final month of the regular season, Sezer was still able to reflect on what has so far been a season even the most passionate Raiders fan probably didn't see coming.
"It's an awesome feeling, especially given how young we are as a team," the 25-year-old said.
'It's good to be up there with the heavyweights of the competition this late in the year, and it gives our fans plenty of joy."