Canberra Raiders NRLThe Canberra Raiders broke their 2009 duck tonight, turning in a strong display to beat the North Queensland Cowboys in the ACT 23-18.

The Raiders now leave Manly stone cold motherless last on the bottom of the NRL ladder, the Green Machine looking very slick on their home turf tonight, at some stages embarrassing the Cowboys with some smart ball movement.

Throwing much talked about debutant Josh Duggan into the fullback role, the Raiders were well served by the confident looking rookie – the custodian looking amazingly confident at the back and providing plenty of thrust for his side.

Canberra were well served too by their forwards, Scott Logan looking very fired up and big bookend Tom Leroyd Lars virtually impossible to put on the turf as he tumbled forward.

The Raiders got off to the best possible start, enjoying plenty of possession and scoring 2 rapid fire tries to get off to a nice lead.

As they looked to get their first NRL win, they were intent on second phase play – much like they did in Round 1 against the Wests Tigers. And it worked a treat, very rarely did Raiders players die with the ball and the support play was outstanding.

For the Cowboys, they were simply out-enthused from the kick-off. Canberra secured possession and worked hard for repeat sets, converting much of their early ball into points and going into half time with a handy lead 20-6.

The North Queensland side rolled up their sleeves in the second half, at least only keeping the home side to 3 points for the half.

When the Cowboys did have opportunities, the Raiders defence slid well and cut off most chances. Jonathan Thurston had an off night, kicking out on the full several times and missing his usual crisp timing on the pass.

In fairness to Thurston, he was working hard to conjure something behind a beaten pack. Luke O’Donnell was rarely seen, only popping his head up to give penalties away and the remaining forwards spent plenty of time working it out of their own red zone – chewing up valuable petrol.

While the Raiders would be stoked with the debut of Josh Duggan, little known half back Marc Herbert continues to impress also. Terry Campese was again at his best, picking the right option every time – whether that be run, pass or kick. However, Herbert plays a key part in taking the pressure off Campese.

Herbet gives a good alternate option at the ruck and his speed of decision really gets the Raiders on the front foot, something other teams have lacked badly in 2009.

Everything the Raiders did was up-tempo and they were unlucky not to win this game by more points.

They’ve been unlucky in several games this year and the win will do their confidence no end of good. Look for the Green Machine to string some wins together in the next few weeks.

By ricky

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