Raiders scrape past plucky Roosters
The Canberra Raiders have moved back into the Telstra Premiership top eight courtesy of a tighter-than-expected 24-16 win over an undermanned Roosters side at GIO Stadium.
The home side had all the running on Sunday afternoon and should have won in a canter, but Trent Robinson's men never went away and had a chance to draw level with five minutes remaining after falling behind 16-6 at the break.
The Roosters started the second half with plenty of promise but were their own worst enemy with a couple of costly errors in good attacking positions.
They were nearly made to pay for their poor handling when Raiders five-eighth Blake Austin broke clear and looked destined to score only for Michael Gordon to produce a try-saving ankle tap to keep his side in the contest.
Gordon's defensive brilliance seemed to inspire his teammates as the Roosters turned on the flair to set up what should have been one of the tries of the season, only for Zane Tetevano to inexplicably hold on to the ball and eventually lose possession when he had two teammates unmarked on his outside.
It was the sort of bombed opportunity that could have shattered their confidence, but the Tricolours quickly moved on and slashed the gap when Joseph Manu spectacularly touched down in the right corner to pull within four points.
Suddenly on the back foot, the Raiders pushed their lead back out to a converted try when Jarrod Croker knocked over a steadying 69th-minute penalty goal.
It would prove to be a crucial two points as the Roosters hit straight back when a brilliant set play from a scrum saw Luke Keary and Gordon combine to send Latrell Mitchell away, only for Gordon to miss what would have been the game-levelling sideline conversion.
The Roosters tried desperately to mount something special in the final 10 seconds but a loose pass by Daniel Tupou was scooped up by Aidan Sezer who raced away to seal the dramatic win.
Latrell Mitchell looked to have given the visitors the dream start when he collected a towering Keary bomb that had been allowed to bounce, but his opening-set try was disallowed by the Bunker due to an offside chaser getting within 10 metres of the play.
There would be no denying the Roosters on their next attacking raid as Canberra's ruck defence fell asleep to allow Jake Friend to celebrate his 200th NRL appearance with his third try in as many games.
It didn't take long for the Raiders to strike back, with the home side levelling the scores – albeit fortuitously – when a Joey Leilua offload cannoned into the chest of Elliott Whitehead who scooped up the loose ball and found Jordan Rapana who planted the ball on the chalk despite the best efforts of Kane Evans to hold him up.
A prolonged period of pressure highlighted by a vintage Iosia Soliola bellringer on Keary proved too much for the Roosters as Rapana finished off a sweeping left-to-right movement to step his way over for his second try of the afternoon.
The Green Machine pushed further in front when skipper Jarrod Croker raced through to ground an Aidan Sezer grubber to bring up his 1500th point in first grade.
Raiders 24 (Jordan Rapana 2, Jarrod Croker, Aidan Sezer tries; Jarrod Croker 4 goals) def. Roosters 16 (Jake Friend, Joseph Manu, Latrell Mitchell tries; Michael Gordon 2 goals) at GIO Stadium. Half-time: 16-6