Heavily maligned before a ball was even kicked in the 2008 NRL season, the Canberra Raiders have thumbed their noses at everyone and locked in 6th spot for the NRL Finals after a flashy win over the Bulldogs today. The final score resembling a touch footy game with the Raiders running away big winners 52-34 over wooden spooners the Bulldogs.
The Raiders continued their impressive late season form with a 9 try to 7 win at home, the 18-point winning buffer enough to leap-frog St George Illawarra on the NRL ladder and give the Raiders more chance of a second life if needed.
Standout five eighth Terry Campese got himself a touchdown and landed 8 from 9 with the boot for a 20-point match that cast sent an ominous warning to NRL finals rivals.
Outside back Joel Monaghan and custodian David Milne bagged hat-tricks for themselves to give the 15,000+ home crowd plenty to cheer about.
Having won 7 of their last 9 matches to force their way into the Top 8; Raiders captain Alan Tongue abandoned his one-game-at-a-time mantra to reveal his lofty hope that the Green Machine could continue their charmed run.
“You always dream. That’s what being in this game is about,” said Tongue.
“You dream, obviously, about getting there in the end.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do and we’ve just got to get back into the recovery session and go through our week and do what we do and we know that we need to be much better next week.”
But Canberra coach Neil Henry warned his side must do better in defence to advance beyond next week.
They conceded seven tries to the last-placed team in the competition today and such an effort in next Saturday’s qualifying final against the third place team will end in tears.
“You’ve got to be able to defend in finals footy,” said Henry.
“We’ve leaked a few tries today, they exposed us a few times and we need to be much better than that.
“The best thing to come out of today is that we’ve got a couple of cramps but no injuries.”