Canberra has shown its class to sneak home with a 14-12 win over North Queensland in an NRL arm wrestle in Townsville.
- Canberra and North Queensland scored two tries apiece, with a Jarrod Croker penalty goal proving the difference on the scoreboard
- The Raiders welcomed back England John Bateman, who was making his first appearance of the season
- Joseph Manu played a starring role in the Roosters’ 18-12 win over the Titans
Earlier in the afternoon, the depleted Sydney Roosters survived an almighty scare from an inspired Gold Coast Titans to escape with a vital 18-12 win at the SCG.
Up north, it was far from the Raiders’ best performance but they did enough to edge a willing Cowboys outfit, with both teams scoring two tries.
The Cowboys threw everything at their opponents but too often let themselves down with their kicking options.
Gunning for their third successive victory, the Raiders looked as if they were suffering jet lag early on after their long match-day flight to Canberra.
They were caught out just two minutes into the match when North Queensland hooker Reece Robson dashed over the line from dummy half.
The Raiders found their groove to level in the 18th minute when half-back George Williams started and finished a 70-metre try, helped by a big charge and fend by winger Nick Cotric.
A 35th-minute penalty strike by captain Jarrod Croker allowed his team to take an 8-6 lead to half-time.
Canberra prop Josh Papalii was both hero and villain within two minutes, stripping the ball but then being placed on report for a forearm to the head of the Cowboys’ teenage full-back Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow.
Cowboys skipper Jason Taumalolo steamed to the try line to put his side up but it was short-lived with the Raiders hitting back four minutes later.
England international John Bateman, playing his first match of the year after two rounds of shoulder surgery, found Curtis Scott, who fended off winger Murray Taulagi to score.
Sharpshooter Croker then showed his value, nailing the conversion from the sideline to put his side ahead again.
The final 12 minutes saw four captains’ challenges, with the Cowboys correct with both but they couldn’t find the points for a win or to take the match into golden point.
Roosters deny gutsy Titans
In an action-packed match laced with drama, the Roosters overcame their crippling injury toll to preserve their place in the top four thanks largely to the heroics of classy centre Joseph Manu.
Already missing eight players from their 2019 grand final-winning outfit and with superstar signing Sonny Bill Williams holed up in quarantine, the Roosters lost try-scoring ace Josh Morris to a calf strain before this afternoon’s kick-off.
Fortunately the back-to-back premiers had Manu, whose leaping 58th-minute try and miracle first-half try saver on Phillip Sami saved the Roosters embarrassment.
The Titans could have bagged four first-half tries but had to settle for only one after blowing two and seeing Manu pull off his incredible rescue act before the break.
Jamal Fogarty was also denied a try in just the second minute, the half-back touching down only for the bunker to rule Titans teammate Brian Kelly had passed him the ball off the ground.
But there was no denying Anthony Don eight minutes later when the prolific winger started and finished his own 75-metre effort.
After scrambling for much of the half, somehow the Roosters went to the break with a 10-6 advantage after half-back Kyle Flanagan added two penalties to his conversion of Mitch Aubusson’s try.
The Titans were reduced to 12 men for a second time in the match when Keegan Hipgrave was sin-binned for taking out Lindsay Collins.
The Roosters’ claims for a penalty try were denied but Flanagan’s two points made it 12-6 before Manu soared high to reel in Luke Keary’s cross-field bomb.
That appeared to seal the deal before Sami crossed with five minutes remaining to give Roosters fans a tense finish.