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Canberra conquer Canterbury to snap losing streak but concerns for Croker after comeback cut short



Canberra have grabbed a much-needed victory, snapping a five game losing streak month with a 14-4 win over the Canterbury Bulldogs.

Sometimes, any win will do and that was the case for Ricky Stuart’s side after a series of terrible performances in recent weeks. The manner in which his team saw out the game, after a series of spectacular implosions in recent times, will impress the coach.

They huffed and puffed their way past a poor Bulldogs side that struggled to make any real impact in attack, but hung around long enough in defence to make life difficult.

The victory came at a cost to Canberra, with returning captain Jarrod Croker taken off with what looked like a dislocated shoulder and Josh Papalii going down with a knee complaint late in the game.

With a tough month ahead – Sharks, Rabbitohs, Eels, Roosters and Broncos in succession – the Raiders will need all that help they can get. They simply had to win tonight and did.

In truth, it was a poor game in which the Raiders dominated the ball and field position, but failed to make significant impacts into the defence. Against this Bulldogs, however, 14 points will always give you a chance, and that proved to be the case in the end.

Canberra stopped their ongoing problem with errors to record a completion rate north of 80%, and that was enough to deliver over 70% of field position. The Bulldogs ran for almost 600m less than their opponents and failed to kick themselves into a better part of the field.

From the start these looked like two bad teams, but the game was no less for it. Whether indiscretions, errors, charges or offloads, there was plenty going on – despite neither side looking much like scoring.

There had been goalline action – Josh Addo-Carr went the length off a clear knock on, Nick Cotric got the ball down from an obvious double movement – but this was a game where, politely speaking, the defences were better than the attacks.

Canberra had gone half an hour last week in Penrith without any field position, and now they were doing that same thing to the Bulldogs. Eventually, it told.

After the Dogs had been denied an opener for an obstruction, the huge weight of territory told as Elliott Whitehead overpowered Aaron Schoupp to score at the corner.

The Raiders thought they had gone further ahead when Matt Frawley slipped Hudson Young through a gaping hole, only for referee Gerard Sutton to call a forward pass.

The halfback went one better next time: he dummied Jeremy Marshall-King and snuck through the line, before doing the same to Matt Dufty. It took some scoring, but was one of the softest tries of the year defensively.

Frawley almost laid on a third, for Croker, but the returning club captain failed to ground the ball.

The 10-0 half time score didn’t reflect the dominance of the Raiders: Canterbury had just six tackles in the Raiders’ half, and none in their 20m area, and completed at 56%. They would have been over the moon not to trail by more.

It was a testament to the Raiders’ confidence that their first option in the second half ws a Croker penalty goal. Though the possession split was roughly the same – perhaps even more slanted in their direction – they were not taking chances.

The Dogs needed to break the pattern, and Matt Burton took it upon himself to do so. His chip and chase was gathered by Addo-Carr to spring Canterbury into field position, and moments later, the five eighth was able to barge himself over the line. Again, the Raiders heeded the warning. They had another penalty chance and took it, pushing the lead out to 14-4 with the clock running out.

There was still time for Croker and Papalii to suffer injuries and raise Stuart’s blood pressure, but you get the feeling that he would have taken the result however it came.

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