An injury hit Canberra Raiders side hung on to beat Sydney Roosters 32-18 in the opening NRL pre-season trial at Leichhardt Oval on Friday night.
The Raiders had to overcome the late withdrawal of halfback Sam Williams after he failed a COVID test before the match and hooker Matt Frawley was ruled out as he was deemed a close contact.
Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad was thrust into the playmaking role, while rookie Adrian Trevilyan got his chance to start at hooker and showed the class that made him a schoolboy star.
CHN backing up CNK
Canberra captain Jarrod Croker got through his first match since undergoing stem cell surgery for a knee injury last season unscathed but the Raiders finished the match with few players on the bench, with Peter Hola (knee) the most serious injury.
The Roosters also had some exciting young talent, with 19 members of their squad not having played at NRL level and they fought back in the second half after trailing 24-6 at the break.
Match: Raiders v Roosters
Round 1 -
Venue: Leichhardt Oval, Sydney
Rival coaches Ricky Stuart and Trent Robinson were looking for different things from the match, with Stuart selecting a mixture of big names and promising rookies for the Raiders, while his Roosters counterpart opted to field many young players who didn't get the chance to play much last season. Xavier Savage, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Emre Guler were impressive for the Raiders
- Nicoll-Klokstad turned in a strong performance after being called on to start at halfback, laying on tries for Corey Harawira-Naera and Peter Hola in a 54-minute stint.
- Savage opened the scoring and looked dangerous every time he received the ball but the 19-year-old speedster also managed to save a try when he and winger Albert Hopoate held up Roosters centre Jordan Swann.
- Trevilyan showed why many believe he may be the long term replacement for Parramatta-bound hooker Josh Hodgson as he reunited with his former Kirwan State High schoolboy halfback Brad Schneider.
Schneider finishes off a long range try
- Rookie halves Sandon Smith and Ronald Volkman showed that there is plenty of depth at the Roosters, as they led the second half fightback.
- Forwards Daniel Suluka-Fifita (159m) and Naufahu Whyte performed strongly in the middle for the Roosters and are likely to see more NRL action this season.
- Terrell May pushed for an upgrade from his train-and-trial contract by running 119 metres in 14 carries of the ball.
Volkman with the monster 40/20
Play of the Game
Teen star Xavier Savage staked an early claim for Canberra's No.1 jersey when he grubbered before the Roosters' line and regathered the bouncing ball to score in just the fourth minute. Regarded as one of the quickest players in the NRL, the former schoolboy sprint champion showed that there is more to his game than speed and his try set to the tone for a dominant Raiders match.
Savage starts 2022 with a try
What They Said
“We got a very quick lesson in what it is like to have a positive COVID test pre-game. We also had a number of head injuries during the game, which is not what you need. You just have to be flexible and get past the disruptions. The positive tonight for both teams was there was a huge amount of youth, and they will all be called upon this year": Raiders coach Ricky Stuart.
"I was actually really impressed more with some of the younger guys who came on. I thought Xavier Va'a, Siua Wong, Ronald Vorkman ... he came on and changed the second half through his kicking": Roosters coach Trent Robinson
The Raiders take on Manly, while the Roosters face Wests Tigers in another double-header next Friday night at Central Coast Stadium.
Both clubs are likely to give more of their top line stars a run in their final hit out before Round 1, in which Canberra host Cronulla on Friday, March 11 and the Roosters meet the Knights at the SCG on Saturday, March 12.
However, Roosters coach Trent Robinson confirmed that star five-eighth Luke Keary, who missed almost of all of last season with a knee injury, was racing the clock to be fit for the opening round due to a foot problem.