The Raiders came from behind to beat an injury hit Sea Eagles outfit 18-16 in Friday night's opening pre-season trial at Gosford.
NSW Origin representative Jack Wighton was the star for Canberra, scoring a try and setting up another as they fought back from 16-0 down to scored three unanswered tries.
However, the big news out of the match was the injuries to Manly's Martin Taupau (back), Haumole Olakau’atu (arm) and Dylan Walker (knee).
Olakau'atu is believed to be the most series of the injuries and will undergo x-rays for a suspected broken arm.
Taupau forced from field early
Taupau could be heard to scream in pain as he reeled out of a tackle in the second minute of the match and required treatment for some time before being able to walk unaided from the field.
Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler has another headache as he considers his team for round one, with Jason Saab and rookie Tolutau Koula forming the fastest centre-wing pairing in the NRL.
Saab grabs the intercept with Savage chasing
The pair each demonstrated their speed as they scored long range tries from Wighton errors in the first half.
Match: Sea Eagles v Raiders
Round 2 -
Venue: Central Coast Stadium, Gosford
- Martin Taupau came reeling out of a tackle with Sean Keppie on Xavier Savage in Canberra's first set of possession before walking gingerly from the field.
- Fans were treated to the first show of speed when Jason Saab intercepted a long pass from Jack Wighton and sprinted 95 metres to score in the 13th minute, with Savage unable to catch him.
- Right side centre partner Tolutau Koula then added to the debate about the game's fastest player when he raced 60 metres to score in the 31st minute after Dylan Walker picked up a loose ball from Wighton.
Koula shows his speed
- It's rare for a Manly match not to feature a Tom Trbojevic try and he scored in the 35th minute but the 2021 Dally M Medallist only needed to fall over the line after Keiran Foran created an overlap with an overhead pass to winger Rueben Garrick.
- The Raiders fightback began just before halftime when Wighton stepped inside four defenders to force his way over for a 40th minute try.
- Former NSW Origin winger Nick Cotric scored in his first appearance back in Canberra colours after a season with the Bulldogs when he swooped on a Wighton grubber behind the Manly defence in the 49th minute.
- There was more injury concern for the Sea Eagles when Haumole Olakau’atu came from the field holding his right arm as Jamaal Fogarty lined up the conversion attempt.
Olakau'atu suffers arm injury against Raiders
- Wighton forced a repeat set when Tom Trbojevic batted an in-goal grubber over the dead ball line and prop Joey Tapine forced his way over for a 57th minute try.
- The injury toll worsened for Manly when Walker was left clutching at his knee after reeling out of an attempted tackle in the 59th minute.
Play of the game
After back-to-back errors that helped the Sea Eagles to a 16-0 lead, Jack Wighton took it upon himself to turn momentum in Canberra's favour just before halftime.
Taking the ball near the Manly try-line, Wighton stepped in-field to force his way over the try-line and spark a Raiders comeback.
Wighton deploys the run game
What they said
"Jack was strong, especially off the ball. A lot of people don't see those little efforts defensively and only mature footballers can handle those pieces of play where it goes against the run of play through an intercept or a drop but he kept his focus and bounced back. That is the sign of an experienced and talented player": Raiders coach Ricky Stuart.
"It was a good hit out but probably from our aspect we were disappointed with aspects of how we want to build our attack. We didn't build much pressure at all, we didn't get many good end of set finished and legged them out with penalties": Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler.
Tapine strolls over as Raiders take the lead
The Sea Eagles travel to Penrith to take on the premiers in the opening match of the Telstra Premiership on Thursday, March 10 and coach Des Hasler ensured his team will be battle-hardened by giving his big name stars long minutes against Canberra.
However, Hasler will be concerned about the injuries to Taupau, Olakau’atu and Walker.
The Raiders host the Sharks in Canberra on Friday, March 11 and coach Ricky Stuart will be pleased by the performance of new halfback Jamaal Fogarty in his first appearance in a green jersey, along with Nick Cotric's return to the club.
Cotric edges the Raiders closer
Star fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad is expected to play in the opening round after being one of four Raiders players to contract COVID-19.