A late Aidan Sezer try sealed a 24-16 win for the Raiders over a plucky Roosters side that fought bravely without their Origin stars.
Lessons learnt for young Roosters
Given next to no hope by the outside world, the Roosters will feel they probably should have won this one. Latrell Mitchell had a try disallowed in the opening minute after Ryan Matterson was ruled to have drifted offside as he chased through a Luke Keary bomb, while Zane Tetevano butchered a certain four-pointer midway through the second half when he dummied to two unmarked men on his outside. If either of those chances were taken, it could have been a different story. Connor Watson pushed a couple of passes that didn't need to be thrown in what was his first start of the season, while debutant Lindsay Collins came up with a loose carry on the first play of a set in good field position.
The Roosters had plenty of excuses to throw in the towel at half-time but showed tremendous fight after the break to almost snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. While there were some moments they'd love to have again, Trent Robinson's troops can hold their heads high after competing well on the road despite being without five key players.
The Rapana show goes on
Jordan Rapana showed why he is widely regarded as the best winger in the game with another phenomenal performance for the Raiders on Sunday afternoon. Rapana bagged a first-half double courtesy of his trademark fast feet to move one clear of James Roberts on top of the try-scoring leaderboard. The 27-year-old added a whopping 14 tackle breaks and carried the ball for 164 metres to finish with a staggering 88 provisional Fantasy points. You'd be a brave person to suggest Rapana won't match last year's haul of 23 tries.
A friend in need is Jake Friend indeed
He mightn't have left Canberra with a win in NRL game number 200, but Roosters skipper Jake Friend can hold his head high after a Herculean effort in the nation's capital. The No.9 opened the scoring in the first half with a solo try from dummy-half – his third four-pointer in as many games – and looked dangerous when presented with a quick play-the-ball. Friend racked up 57 tackles and kicked for a season-high 205 metres with his right boot often getting his side out of trouble when they desperately needed a breather. It was the sort of performance we saw a lot of last year when the Roosters were missing key personnel so it came as no surprise to see Friend deliver once more with five of his teammates away on State of Origin duty.
Capital punishment continues for the Roosters
A quick glance at the recent history at GIO Stadium suggested this was always going to be a thriller, and despite it being a one-sided contest on paper the match was in the balance until the 80th minute. The Raiders had toppled the Roosters 24-20, 24-22 and 21-20 in their previous three meetings at GIO Stadium, and with 10 seconds remaining it looked as if they'd hold on for another two-point triumph until Aidan Sezer's try at the death gave them a bit of a breathing space to keep the Tricolours winless in the nation's capital since 2010.
Raiders yet to hit their straps
They mightn't be playing anywhere near their best but the Raiders find themselves in the Telstra Premiership top eight after 12 rounds courtesy of Sunday's thrilling win. They were really good in patches against the Roosters but should never have been in a position where they could have beaten at the end. With a 16-6 lead at the break, you could have been forgiven for thinking the Green Machine would run away with it in the second half, but apart from Sezer's last-minute try their only points after the break came via a Jarrod Croker penalty goal.
Josh Hodgson's form out of dummy-half would have brought a smile to Ricky Stuart's face, but the Raiders coach won't be impressed with their ill-discipline in defence nor some of their options in attack highlighted by a terrible pass from Junior Paulo that led to a try from the ensuing scrum. Stuart has a lot to work with and will be somewhat pleased with their 6-6 start given there is plenty of room for improvement.