Raiders smash Knights to stay in hunt
A hat-trick to Jordan Rapana and a goal-kicking masterclass by Jarrod Croker have powered the Raiders to a 46-28 win over the Newcastle Knights that keeps their faint finals hopes alive.
Needing to win their final two games of the season while also relying on other results to go their way, Canberra bolted out of the gates with two early tries and then staved off a tense period either side of half-time to close within two competition points of the eighth-placed Sea Eagles.
It didn't come as quickly as Parramatta's opening try but it still only took three minutes for the Raiders to crash over when Junior Paulo touched down for his first four-pointer in Canberra colours to give the hosts an early lead.
The good times kept rolling from the next set when an Aidan Sezer kick was batted back straight into the arms of Jarrod Croker who strolled over to make it 10-0 inside six minutes before the skipper potted a simple penalty goal to extend the lead.
Another penalty goal from in front pushed the lead out beyond two converted tries but to Newcastle's credit they refused to give in and they were rewarded for their resilience when Shaun Kenny-Dowall dived over to get the visitors on the board.
Sensing a lull in Canberra's intensity, the Knights stunned the home fans when Jamie Buhrer backed his way over from the very next set to cut the gap to four points after half an hour.
Their revival didn't last long however as a midfield error gifted the Raiders field position and Jack Wighton made the most of the opportunity to power his way over before the fullback turned provider to set up Jordan Rapana to make it 26-10 at the break.
The first-half points frenzy didn't look like continuing after the break with neither side able to trouble the scorers for 12 minutes until Daniel Saifiti did enough to convince the Bunker that he'd controlled the Steeden to give the Knights a sniff.
That's as close as Nathan Brown's men would get as Rapana finished off a simple scrum play to complete his double to move within three tries of South Sydney's Alex Johnston at the top of the tree.
The Raiders gave their for and against another boost when Croker slotted his third penalty goal of the evening before Rapana put the result beyond doubt when he slid over to complete his hat-trick.
Blake Austin, Mitch Barnett and Kenny-Dowall traded late tries and Elliott Whitehead was sent to the sin bin but it mattered little as the Green Machine held on for a comfortable win over a side that has troubled them in recent years.
Raiders 46 (Jordan Rapana 3, Junior Paulo, Jarrod Croker, Jack Wighton, Blake Austin tries; Jarrod Croker 9 goals) def. Knights 28 (Shaun Kenny-Dowall 2, Jamie Buhrer, Daniel Saifiti, Mitch Barnett tries; Trent Hodkinson 4 goals) at GIO Stadium. Half-time: 20- 10. Crowd: 10,523
NRL.com unofficial votes – 3 votes: Junior Paulo, 2 votes: Jack Wighton, 1 vote: Jordan Rapana