Canberra coach Ricky Stuart praised the resilience of his team and the new bond formed by right-edge duo Curtis Scott and Nick Cotric for helping the Raiders to a 20-6 win over the New Zealand Warriors on Saturday at Cbus Super Stadium.
Stuart almost ran out of adjectives to describe how poor his side’s opening 20 minutes was against the Warriors, but amid the atrocious handling (six errors), shocking stats and lopsided first-half penalty count (7-2) was the positive development of his new edge defence.
Scott and Cotric played key roles in keeping the Warriors scoreless when they dominated the opening exchanges of the game and it’s a big reason why Stuart was able to walk away from Cbus Super Stadium with a smile rather than a frown.
It was especially pleasing for Stuart too because of the tumultuous off-season Scott has endured since his move to Canberra from Melbourne.
It wasn’t until the week before round one that the Raiders were advised they could play Scott while under investigation by the NRL Integrity unit for an altercation with police on Australia Day in Sydney, but he’s slotted seamlessly into the Raiders side and it showed with his combination with Cotric in just their second game together.
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“Him (Cotric) and Curtis have both really combined well defensively. They’re actually really formed a good relationship off the field. They’ve become good mates and that really helps when training and playing with one another so much,” Stuart said.
“That type of camaraderie and mateship in defence helps when you’re getting to know each other’s game. It’s only a new combination and a very new right edge so that was some smart reads there by Nick and helped by Curtis.
“Curtis has really fell in with everybody in the squad. Curtis is a good bloke. He has had a really tough off-season as we all know which we don’t want to go back into.
“But Curtis is actually a good bloke. We wouldn’t have him at the club if he wasn’t a good person.”
It was a sign of the maturity of Stuart’s footy team that they were able to swing the momentum of the game so heavily in their favour after starting so poorly.
While they didn’t run away with the game on the scoreboard, the second half certainly felt like it was no contest as the Green Machine turned the screws until they conceded a late penalty try.
“It was quite a resilient win more than high-quality footy win from our point of view,” he said.
“We were very ugly the way we played. Those stats in the first half we gave them every opportunity, they should’ve been leading really.
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"They threw some really good attack at us and fortunately on our right edge we defended it well and saved probably two or three tries that were well executed from an attacking point of view by the Warriors.
“Defensively we kept aiming up but the stats we had were shocking. The penalties against us, the dropped ball that we turned over was just poor footy.
"For us to keep holding them out and the second half we didn’t do much scoring but we did a good job to keep them out, or keep them to six with that penalty try.”
The Raiders' only concerns out of the game were a hamstring strain to bench forward Siliva Havili while forward Sia Soliola was placed on report for a swinging arm on Adam Blair in the first half.
Havili will be in doubt for the Raiders' next game, with a short turnaround to play St George Illawarra at home on Thursday.