The win for the Canberra Raiders in their finals clash against the Cronulla Sharks, came from a rather simple method – shutting down the Sharks two big players, in Todd Carney and Paul Gallen. It worked.
The Raiders had a stranglehold on the Sharks attack for good portions of the game, though the Raiders last three tries came in the final 13 minutes, it was the preceding work that set the tone for it.
The news does not get any better for the Sharks, with early reports suggesting that influential five-eighth Todd Carney, suffered a ruptured/snapped Achilles tendon, an injury with a lengthy time-frame attached to it.
In order to negate Gallen’s impact, young Raiders back-rower Josh Papalii was given the task to do just that.
“Furnsey (coach David Furner) gave him a few words of encouragement to get over him (Gallen) early in the game and I thought Papa really stood up there, it was good,” Raiders captain David Shillington said.
“He got up him a few times and Gal didn’t handle it very well.”
Gallen, clearly irritated on the field at his treatment by Papalii, warned refs that he would take matters into his own hands – but he refused to go into what Raiders captain David Shillington said.
“He can say what he wants, I don’t care, we’re out of the comp.
“They had a plan to target me.
“I don’t really care about Papalii. He hit a dog shot with a swinging arm and once in the back without the ball.”
Despite the nervousness in the lead-up to the game, Papalii is just pleased that he managed to do his bit to ensure that the Raiders survive another day in the NRL finals.
“It was pretty tough, he scared me a little bit, but I think that’s just footy. There are no hard feelings. It was the heat of the moment,” said Papalii.
There was a potential moment of controversy, when Jeff Robson went over the line, only for the try to be pulled back for obstruction, based on rulings over the past few weeks.
“First look at it I thought he (Jeremy Smith) was two defenders in and didn’t have too much contact with the player,” Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said.