Saturday, May 21, 2011

Was it a resurrection or resuscitation?

Given that the good majority of us couldn’t claim to find the notion of giving seventeen sweaty rugby league players mouth to mouth exciting, let’s hope it was the former.

Hard to say for sure which of the two it was, but, whatever has transformed the Canberra Raiders from chumps to champs in the space of seven days, it must surely have been stupendous.

First, they beat Melbourne last week. Now, seven days later, they’ve gone and accounted for the Canterbury Bulldogs, winning 20-12 in Canberra tonight.

It was a mighty effort on the home side’s part. Especially given that all the stats suggested that the Bulldogs should have won comfortably, going away. By half-time the Raiders had completed some sixty more tackles than their opposition.

Not only that, but a good proportion of the fixture was being played in Canberra’s own half. This in part was from their own capacity to offer up attacking options to the Bulldogs through poor ball control. It was a cold night with heavy dew on the ground, and handling conditions were not at their optimum. All the same, if they were going to continuously hand over the pill, surely Canberra was going to suffer the consequences.

Maybe they might have if the Bulldogs had brought along any semblance of an attacking game with them. On many an occasion they attempted to make pests of themselves in Canberra’s red zone. Yet, not once in the opening quarter did they look like threatening the green machines in-goal area.

In fact, it was the Raiders, against the run of play, that opened the scoring in the 11th minute after Joe Picker chased through to secure a 5th tackle bomb put up by a mate, then not to delicately charged his way to within five metres of his foes goal line before dispatching the ball widely behind him for Josh McCrone to snap up and spread it to Canberra’s right side attack where Joel Thompson was waiting with bated breath to do his thing. Which he duly managed as he threw a dummy and darted five metres to score out wide.

Having scored first, despite losing out in the territory stakes, one might have surmised that this could have been the catalyst for the Raiders to settle down and concentrate on the basics.

You know, simple things such as holding onto the ball in the set of six immediately after a scoring play. Unfortunately for Canberra, Dane Tilse knocked on. More pressure to absorb, then.

Not content to be left out, just two minutes later, fullback, Nathan Massey, got in the act and lost possession in his own half.

So, opportunities abounded for the Bulldogs to attack. Yet, whatever they tried, they seemed to lack direction. In all likelihood, they were missing the services of State of Origin hooker, Michael Ennis.

As much as Canberra was defending stoutly, and they had displayed a tremendous kick/chase thus far, which were both admirable team qualities; there are times when individuals need to hog some of the limelight.

No, really, it’s okay, be a star. No no...don’t go with the flow, steal the show, branch out...strike a blow. Be a man... that you can, do it for yourself, do it for the fan, don’t worry about a ban. Take your cue, bid adieu, earn your due... break clear, take care, run free, lift those knees, but don’t fear for the opposition are nowhere near. It’s still okay, be that individual, run like you mean’ll’ll find a way, its May, keep them at bay.

And this is exactly what Reece Robinson did in the 26th minute as he intercepted a long pass of Bulldogs skipper, Andrew Ryan, and set out on a solo run of thirty-five metres to score twenty metres wide of the left upright.

A few seconds after he touched down his teammates were there to congratulate him. Robinson had helped secure his side a 10-0(with Jarrod Croker’s conversion) advantage totally against the run of play in awkward playing conditions. They sure appreciated his efforts.

Yep, he was an integral part which helped contribute to the whole being greater than the sum of all it parts.

To this point Canberra had spent three quarters of the game in their half.

It was a tremendous effort to go into the break up by ten points.

With Matt Orford out with injury, his replacement, Joe Williams, had big boots to fill. Relish the chance, he did. Not long after half-time he sent a booming kick down field in search of a 40/20. It only missed by a fraction as Ben Barba dived frantically to keep the ball in play. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, even though he managed it, he gave possession back to the Raiders who gratefully accepted the invitation to enter the visitor’s in-goal area as Joe Picker dived over in the tackle for what would be the winning try and a 16-0 lead.

Sure, momentum did swing and the Bulldogs would come storming home over the final fifteen minutes with tries to Josh Morris and Ben Barba, closing the gap to six.
Ill discipline was to be their undoing, however. Having already conceded a two pointer in the 60th minute, a swinging arm from Ennis’ replacement, Josh Reynolds, with three minutes left on the clock, put the result beyond doubt as Croker kicked the penalty and sealed Canberra’s third win of the season.

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