Canberra Raiders hooker Tom Starling

In worrying signs for the eighth-placed Cronulla Sharks, a second-string Canberra Raiders outfit has run rampant over the boys from the Shire in an entertaining 38-28 points bonanza.

The Canberra Raiders, led by perennial back-up Sam Williams, had rested a host of stars and came into the match with little expectations.

The work of Williams and Matt Frawley in the halves (and Tom Starling in the number 9 jersey) would quickly put paid to any notion of easy beats.

For Cronulla, they too are under-strength at the moment, with Chad Townsend still out and Shaun Johnson done for the year.

The lack of experience was on display early when Dunamis Lui crashed over in the third minute from a standard hit up.

The Sharks would hit back almost immediately with Ronaldo Mulitalo struggling over in the corner four minutes later.

However, it would be a run of Raiders tries to follow – beginning with an inch-perfect kick to Nick Cotric from the local junior Sam Williams in his first game of the year.

Only another four minutes would pass until the revelatory Tom Starling burrowed his way over for a four-pointer.

Starling already had a bright future ahead of him, but this game may have solidified him as a genuine, modern, attacking hooker a la Damien Cook.

His brilliance was on display shortly after when he provided this stunning run and chip for Captain Sam Williams to bag a try of his own.

The Sharks would reduce the deficit to 24-10 heading into half time, with Briton Nikora gratefully accepting a leaping pass from the towering Nene Macdonald.

The second half would only see more Raiders dominance, with two unlikely try-scoring candidates bagging a meat pie a-piece.

First, it was the young number 14 Kai O’Donnell – the beneficiary of another Starling assist. The crafty  Hooker finding a sweet hole for O’Donnell to charge through close to the line.

Next, it was another local junior in Matt Frawley dummying and stepping on the left edge to cruise through for a try of his own – in his first game back in the NRL for two years, no less.

The Sharks would mount an attempted comeback through captain and temporary five-eighth Wade Graham’s solo effort.

Veteran Bryson Goodwin followed up with another four-pointer but the Raiders would strike back just as quickly through Harley Smith-Shields.

Another try to Nikora could do little to turn the tide of the green wave, with the Sharks looking more and more likely to drop out early when finals begin next week.

Canberra Raiders fans would see a lot to like about the game, with the resilience and unity of the team extending all the way through the squad.

With such little game time, the players on show indicated a strong atmosphere led by Coach Ricky Stuart. They will be a threat.


Canberra Raiders 38 (Lui, Cotric, Starling, Williams, O’Donnell, Frawley, Smith-Shields)  def Cronulla Sharks 22 (Mulitalo, Graham, Goodwin, Nikora 2)


Mawene Hiroti 4/5

Sam Williams 5//7

NRL News Player of the Match

3 Points – Tom Starling

2 Points – Sam Williams

1 Point – Dunamis Lui

Canberra Raiders half Sam Williams

By rcurran

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