Luck's a fortune for relieved Raiders
Most people had written the Raiders off before Friday night but the Green Machine kept their finals hopes alive with a heart-stopping 18-14 win over the Dragons in golden point to snap a four-game losing streak that threatened to send their season spiralling out of control.
Canberra were far from their best and it looked like they were headed for another tight defeat until halfback Aidan Sezer stepped up with two huge plays to avoid what would have been a fourth loss in extra-time this season.
The under-fire halfback relished his switch to the left edge and got his side back into the contest with a 90-metre intercept try before he launched a stunning 40/20 in golden point that led to Elliott Whitehead's match-winning four-pointer.
Another tight loss would have all but ended their hopes of playing in the post-season, but after a forgettable four weeks the Green Machine were finally on the right end of a narrow scoreline.
Back-to-back defeats at home were preceded by a golden point loss to the Sea Eagles as well as a brutal night in Bathurst that saw them concede two tries in the final three minutes to fall in dramatic fashion to the Panthers, but instead of feeling sorry for themselves the players lifted when the game was in the balance.
"I was just really happy for the boys to win like that tonight [because] we've been on the back end of so many close games like that," Raiders coach Ricky Stuart said.
"It's been a real struggle trying to get these boys up after the way we lost to Penrith. Over the last three or four weeks, it's been really hard and a really big job. I've got to give them credit because they're hanging in and hanging in and doing everything they can."
Friday night was a must-win game for a Raiders side that started the round six points behind the seventh-placed Dragons but will now finish the week just two wins outside the top eight.
Having been on the wrong end of some tough losses this season, Stuart said it felt good to have a bit of luck go his side's way with the game on the line.
"We've been in so many games like that and we're not winning them, so yeah, absolutely you get nervous," he admitted.
"When you get in three or four types of those scenarios and you're winning them, you find a bit of rhythm and you've got a bit of relief and confidence, but our poor buggers have been losing those games.
"The common denominator in it is us. We've got to get better at it, but luck – and I can say this after a win – luck plays a massive role in golden point, in tight games. When you're four or six points down, luck plays a massive, massive role.
"I know there have been games here where we've gone into golden point where Toots (Jarrod Croker) is going to score a try off a ball from Jack Wighton and he slipped over and then they came back, got the football and won the game. There have been so many games like that for us this year that haven't been rolling our way at times.
"Whether you like it or not, in all types of sport, luck is a massive part of your game. You make your own luck, I understand that, but holy hell, when you're getting a bit of luck like we were tonight when we got that 40/20, it puts you on the front foot and all of a sudden it puts you in a position to win."