Sea Eagles v Raiders: Five key points
It was often scrappy, it was high scoring, it was topsy-turvy but at the end of the day the Green Machine made it nine in a row despite a late scare. Here are five talking points from Canberra's 44-30 win over the Sea Eagles on Saturday afternoon.
Canberra roll on despite uncharacteristic errors
The returning Paul Vaughan followed up his early try with a drop from the kick-off; fullback Jack Wighton dropped one cold to hand Manly an easy try; Elliott Whitehead passed in front of an out-of-position Jordan Rapana into touch.
There were a ton of soft ruck penalties against the Green Machine, mostly for lying in tackles. It's fair to say Canberra didn't help themselves, particularly in the first half, but still, when they got their chances, they got the job done.
"It was a pretty messy, scrappy game all day," said Raiders coach Ricky Stuart.
"The players were pretty frustrated at half-time and we didn't get much rhythm but a lot of teams would have got beaten today with where the penalties were at one stage."
However he praised his side's determination and professionalism to stay in there and find a way to win despite that.
Skipper Jarrod Croker could afford a laugh having come away with the win.
"It was long, it felt like it went forever that game. It was a long old day," Croker joked.
"Like 'Stick' (Stuart) said when you come to Manly it's not going to be pretty game or a pretty win but at the end of the day we're pleased to come away with the two points."
Injuries once again the story for Manly
The Sea Eagles went into the game with plenty of firepower – including veterans Jamie Lyon, Steve Matai and Brett Stewart – sidelined. Centre Dylan Walker (shoulder) was named but didn’t take the field. And once again injuries came into play during the game with prop Nate Myles (foot) only playing the first 23 minutes and winger Jorge Taufua (concussion) finishing up with half an hour to play.
"It's been hard, it's hard on the players," coach Trent Barrett said of the relentless injury toll.
"We've got second rowers in the centres and centres on the wing and Nate. It's just been week after week after week and still to this day we haven't put the same 17 on the field once.
"It takes a toll I guess but in saying that, you score 30 points you should win. The development of some of the younger players has been really good. Tom and Jake [Trbojevic] have come on, Addin Fonua-Blake's been a real find, he's really coming good. Brad Parker's made his debut.
"There's a lot of positives there. Matt Parcell's playing some good footy, Api [Koroisau] is playing some good footy. There is positives there but it doesn't make it any easier to lose and we've got some work to do."
One of those 12-point turnarounds
Trailing 18-10 at the break, an early try after half-time was exactly what Manly needed. They almost got exactly that but finished up copping not just a try against them but the psychological blow of not scoring when they should have a moment before hand.
A Brayden Wiliame line break virtually from the kick-off created a classic two-on-one scenario but his pass to a supporting Tom Trbojevic looked forward out of the hands and was called as such by the officials.
A line break from Raiders centre Joey Leilua down the exact same channel instead saw him bust through to score in a huge heartbreaker for the home side who were suddenly looking at a steep hill to climb at 22-10, which quickly became 28-10 when Leilua earned his double less than five minutes later.
"Not too many things went well for us. That eight minutes after half-time killed us," lamented Barrett.
"The forward pass and the try was a bit of a 12-point turnaround there so we'd get within striking distance then shoot ourselves in the foot with a couple of poor decisions which you just can't keep doing. We've got to learn from it. We've got some work to do."
Raiders' depth an embarrassment of riches
Not too many clubs could replace players of the calibre of Junior Paulo and Blake Austin with bona fide first graders in Paul Vaughan and Sam Williams.
While Vaughan was making his comeback from a sternum injury, Williams – who would be in first grade at plenty of other clubs – has been plying his trade for feeder club Mounties since his last NRL game back in Round 8.
Both performed well despite a few signs of rust and will be better for the run. Vaughan powered over for an early try but was disappointed to back that up with an error. Williams helped control the game well and kicked adeptly but looked to be struggling a bit fitness-wise at the back end of the game.
Croker said Williams slotted in well.
"He'll be better for the run, the speed of the game, obviously he's been at Mounties the last couple of months," Croker said.
"He'll be up to speed, he only had the captain's run yesterday and he showed in there he was barking orders and helping Aidan out like 'Austo' was so he'll be better for the run."
No happy farewell for 'Killer'
Retiring veteran Jamie Lyon was paraded to the crowd before kick-off with a guard of honour of sorts just before the second half but the ever-casual and laconic country boy seemed embarrassed by the attention and couldn't get off the field quick enough.
But in a footballing sense his seniority [and goal-kicking] would have been a huge help out on the field as a young and inexperienced side did enough to win the game but couldn't make the most of their opportunities.
"Jamie's around, he prepared through the week as if he was going to play and did the best he could," Barrett said after the game.
"We had the three older guys there in [Steve] Matai and Lyon and 'Snake' (Brett Stewart) and they're big parts of the club and to have them not on the field's been tough all year but I thought it was a great turnout from the Manly fans to come and see Jamie Lyon off because he's a champion and he deserves it."
While there has been talk both of Matai and Stewart could each retire or leave the club at season's end, Barrett was hoping to have both next year.
"We're hoping [Matai will play on]. He's had a fairly significant operation on his neck but apart from that he's in really good shape so 'Skivvi' is contracted next year and I'd certainly love him to play. He's a terrific player. To lose the experience of 'Killer', it would be handy if those older guys were fit," Barrett said.