‘One of the best’: Raiders bask in grand final revenge
THIS wasn't supposed to happen. The nerve of you, Canberra.
In a sometimes spiteful match, the injury-depleted and rattled Raiders were meant to succumb and surrender to the all-mighty premiers like most before them over the past three years.
Let's look at the facts.
Canberra was playing the red hot premiers and competition favourites with seven players unavailable through injury.
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The Raiders were playing away from home and had to fly up and back to Sydney in a day. And it was all achieved after a five-day turnaround.
"There weren't many people that gave us a chance tonight, outside the people in the inner-part of the club" Canberra coach Ricky Stuart said.
"I said last week that I don't care what people say and think because they don't know what is actually under the jumper, they don't know what we're built on. I'm very proud of the players."
Through two stellar solo tries, one to a Samoan, the other to an Englishman, Canberra secured a major 24-20 upset over the Sydney Roosters at the SCG.
Everything and everyone was against the Raiders - except the Raiders themselves, who never lost belief. Resilient in defence, Canberra's middle third played tough.
"It's one of the better wins I've been involved with in my whole time at the club," Canberra captain Jarrod Croker told Fox League.
"Just the season, and everyone's got it, the travel, all the dramas with everything that's going on in the world.
"And the injuries, down on troops, lost another bloke on captain's run, lost another outside back at halftime - a few of our leaders and nearly our starting forward pack. So
it's one of the better wins I've been involved in my time here."
British halfback George Williams scored a solo try as did big Josh Papalii to stun the Roosters. The scores rocked back and forth throughout a pulsating game but, when full-time sounded, Canberra had their noses in front.
Canberra played without injured players Josh Hodgson, Sia Soliola, John Bateman, Corey Horsburgh, Bailey Simonsson and Curtis Scott with Semi Valemei making his Raiders debut.
Jack Wighton was strong offensively and defensively.
Canberra players walked toward the old SCG hill after full-time to cheer to a handful of Raiders fans who drove three hours each way - and sat through rain - to watch their heroes.
It was the first game between the two teams since referee Ben Cummins' now infamous six again call which led to a Roosters try and subsequent 14-8 win in last year's grand final.
The win can't bring back Cummins' mistake - but it must have made Ricky Stuart feel just that little bit better.
The Roosters lost few admirers. Yes they lost but again showed the quality and skill of a side eyeing off a three-peat.
Winger Brett Morris slipped over for two first half tries while brother Josh set up another in the second half for winger Matt Ikuvalu.
Statistically, both sides were level-pegging although the Roosters made 15 errors to Canberra's eight.
"We made way too many errors. We didn't have our starch, it was really frustrating," Roosters coach Trent Robinson said.
"We just weren't good enough tonight. We just weren't strong enough, it's on all of us.
"We are feeling hurt by those four (conceded) tries. We need to improve our defence. It's simple, there you go."
Brett Morris added: "It wasn't a Roosters performance tonight."
The Roosters wore black armbands after club chairman Nick Politis' mother passed away in Greece aged 103.
PConcussed from a high shot by Roosters forward Angus Crichton,
Papalii was taken from the field from an HIA test after just six minutes. He returned
to run for 147 metres.
"When he got whacked in the nose, and I don't understand why we didn't get the penalty, I was pretty confident we were going to win because they poked the bear," Stuart said.
Asked about the Crichton hit on Papalii, Robinson said: "That's footy, that's life."
Wighton was placed on report for an alleged dangerous throw while Williams was also in report for a high tackle. Both indiscretions were committed on Brett Morris.
Raiders 24 (Tries: Jarrod Croker, Dunamis Lui, Josh Papalii, George Williams. Goals: Jarrod Croker 4/4) defeated Roosters 20 (Tries: Brett Morris 2, Matt Ikuvalu. Goals: Kyle Flanagan 4/5)
Originally published as 'One of the best': Raiders bask in grand final revenge