Fifth placed Canberra Raiders were the bookies favourites to grab a win against fellow hopefuls the Manly Sea Eagles in Campbelltown and the first of Sunday’s two matches to complete round seven in the NRL got underway.
The game was billed as the battle between super star Englishman George Williams and Australia’s finest, Daly Cherry-Evans as the two number sevens went head to head.
The Sea Eagles lost Dylan Walker in the opening two minutes after he suffered and ankle injury, Lachlan Croker coming off the bench as his replacement. Within seconds Bradley Parker followed him down the tunnel after taking a blow to the head, Jack Gosiewski on in his stead.
On ten a cross-field kick forced the Sea Eagles error but Jordan Rapana lost the ball with the line open in front of him. Manly went straight down the other end and Tom Trbojevic made the line break and forced the ball onto the line from fifteen metres out. Reuben Garrick curled his kick between the sticks.
After a scrappy twenty-five spell from both sides, Manly broke the deadlock with a Tom Trbojevic delayed pass to Tevita Funa for the big winger to crash over in the corner. Garrick scored from the touchline for a 12-0 lead at the interval.
On forty-nine minutes the Raiders were right back in the game when Elliott Whitehead took the ball on the run and swerved past the last line of defence to score from ten metres. Jarrod Croker added the conversion for 6-12.
The number were starting to count against Manly when Tom Trbojevic, the Sea Eagles talisman, was helped off the field after appearing to tweak his left hamstring.
On fifty-six Garrick kicked a twenty metre penalty to extend the lead to eight points.
Croker had a try ruled out for a knock-on on sixty-one after he brilliantly took a George Williams high kick.
A last ditch Curtis Sironen tackle denied Jordan Rapana on seventy as the Raiders looked for the four-pointer to give then the chance of snatching the win.
It was a battle royal between two aggressive defences and while the Sea Eagles never looked confident with their lead, even with three serious injuries, they managed to thwart the Canberra attack and take the points.
Canberra Raiders: Nicoll-Klokstad, Rapana, Croker (G), Scott, Cotric, Wighton, Williams, Papalii, Hodgson, Soliola, Tapine, Whitehead (T), Horsburgh. Subs: Havili, Guler, Sutton, Young.
Manly Sea Eagles: Trbojevic T (T), Funa (T), Parker, Elliot, Garrick (3G), Walker, Cherry-Evans, Fonua-Blake, Levi, Paseka, Thompson, Sironen, Trbojevic J. Subs: Croker, Gosiewski, Kellie, Boyle.
Referee: Grant Atkins.
Ground: Campbelltown Stadium, Campbelltown.