Raiders survive Sea Eagles scare
Canberra have spoiled Jamie Lyon's farewell to Brookvale party with a big second half, surviving a late Manly comeback to hold onto a 44-30 win on Saturday afternoon.
A mountain of first-half errors from the Green Machine combined with a gritty effort from the injury-ravaged home side kept things close for around 55 minutes before Canberra's devastating centres Joey Leilua and Jarrod Croker broke the game open midway through the second half.
However some key injuries to Canberra helped Manly to a few late tries with Tom Trobejevic bringing up a hat-trick, the home side at one point on track for an unlikely comeback win.
Manly weren't helped by the losses of prop Nate Myles (foot, 23rd minute) and winger Jorge Taufua (concussion, 48th minute) to go with the pre-game withdrawal of centre Dylan Walker (shoulder).
Trbojevic, who continues to battle on through an ankle injury, was among the maroon and whites' best, scoring three quality tries through Canberra's brittle right-edge defence in an intriguing personal battle with Leilua, who got two of his own.
The Raiders brushed off the loss of five-eighth Blake Austin (hand) during the week – and had the luxury of bringing an in-form NRL-calibre half in Sam Williams, though he also finished the match under a rib injury cloud.
Even worse, the remaining fit half Aidan Sezer was pulled from the field in the 70th minute with a shoulder injury.
While the Raiders made life tough for themselves at times in the first half they eventually took an eight-point advantage to the sheds – though somewhat fortuitously.
Prop Paul Vaughan celebrated his return to the first grade team by crashing over from close range in the 10th minute at Canberra's first attacking opportunity, and Croker's conversion brought up his 250th point for the season, becoming the first Raider to hit the milestone.
Vaughan though spilled the kick-off – one of several tricky Matt Wright restarts to cause the Raiders massive headaches – and Manly got a chance to attack.
Despite mounting a bit of pressure of their own the next try came against the run of play as Jordan Rapana scooped up an awful dummy-half pass to run 90 metres to make it 12-0.
Another Canberra error – fullback Jack Wighton dropping a regulation bomb cold – handed Manly their first try as co-captain Jake Trbojevic strolled over after Api Koroisau swept up the loose ball.
An Elliott Whitehead pass into touch allowed Manly another attacking chance and Trbojevic's younger brother Tom added his name to the score sheet when he backed himself to slice through after receiving a nice Cherry-Evans cut-out pass.
At 12-10 the home team was in the game but a clever solo try from Rapana – his second of the match – on the back of a damaging Joey Leilua run stretched the advantage to 18-10 at the break.
The two minutes after the resumption presented a classic 12-point turnaround with a Brayden Wiliame line break seemingly leading destined to help Trbojevic to a try but was called back for a forward pass; from the ensuing set Leilua burst through a gap and dummied his way to the line.
The centre had a five-minute double when he burst over from dummy-half a couple of sets later and things looked over at 28-10.
Trbojevic sliced through for his second – a carbon copy of the first – in the 52nd minute but some stunning work from Croker to set up an Edrick Lee try shortly after – followed by a soft try to Jack Wighton – looked to again seal the deal.
However two tries in three minutes – Trbojevic brought up his hat-trick again cutting through the Raiders' right edge and journeyman Frank Winterstein showing some skills to score on almost the same blade of grass – made it interesting.
Wright's conversion miss from the second left the margin at eight points with only a few minutes remaining and a late runaway try to Rapana to bring up his hat-trick iced the high-scoring win.
Canberra Raiders 42 (Rapana 3, Leilua 2, Vaughan, Lee, Wighton tries; Croker 6/8 goals) defeated Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 30 (Tom Trbojevic 3, Jake Trbokevic, Cherry-Evans, Winterstein tries; Wright 3/6 goals) at Brookvale Oval. Half-time: 18-10 Raiders. Crowd: 11,137.