For fans tipping, it was like heading into a game where either side could lose by 40 and although that did not happen, the Canberra Raiders and Canterbury Bulldogs did put on a show at Suncorp Stadium.
In the end, it was the Canberra Raiders just edging out the Canterbury Bulldogs to win the opening match of magic round 34-30.
The match had everything with well put together tries, big hits, toughness, speed, tit-for-tat moments and the Raiders running away with it before the Dogs pulled the deficit back.
The Raiders would score first points and they came off the boot of Jamal Fogarty. Fogarty’s bomb soared high and in-form winger Jordan Rapana stood watching the ball, not jumping, and catching it to score.
Reed Mahoney then willed his side back into the contest as the crafty hooker kicked a 40/20 to put the Bulldogs in an attacking position.
It was then his pass that found Jacob Preston who ran a nice line and bustled over the try-line with ease.
The Raiders second came when Jack Wighton saw the Bulldogs winger had rushed up so he kicked ahead for Xavier Savage who won the race the ball, patiently let it bounce and then planted it down.
Matt Timoko then put on the afterburners off a Raiders scrum play as he caught opposite number Paul Alamoti off guard and split the gap to score the Raiders third.
Hudson Young was then the recipient of another Fogarty bomb, albeit one that was knocked back by the Bulldogs but the ball ended up in his hand and he had an easy passage to the line.
The Dogs would not go down, however, as veteran playmaker Josh Reynolds came on and grubbered ahead with Preston winning the race for his second try.
A quickfire double then ensued for the Bulldogs when Matt Burton grubbered this time, and he was able to find Jake Averillo who won the race and held off the Raiders defence to score.
The high-scoring first half only saw even more points scored in the second, as Timoko and Rapana combined down the right hand side for the winger’s second try of the night.
Timoko would have his second assist of the night soon after as he danced and jinked from right to left, throwing a speculative pass that was scooped up by Jarrod Croker who hit the gap and scored.
A trademark Burton megabomb then went up and the Raiders made the mistake of letting it bounce, as Jacob Kiraz scooped it up and was able to find Averillo on his inside for his second.
The Raiders then added a penalty goal to make things seemingly comfortable at 34-24.
A rare penalty try was then awarded when Ata Mariota took out Hayze Perham in a try-scoring opportunity without the ball and the game was evenly poised at 34-30.
Try as they might, however, the Bulldogs could not make the most of any remaining chances.
Bulldogs coach Cameron Ciraldo was blunt about his team’s performance, stating that the final score made his side look good.
“I thought the scoreboard flattered us,” said Ciraldo.
“The fact that we still had a chance to win it at the end there, probably we didn’t deserve that.”
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart was also blunt but in a positive way for his side, believing they were deserved victors.
“Respectfully, I thought we were the far better team tonight,” said Stuart.
Canberra Raiders 34 (Rapana 2, Savage, Timoko, Young, Croker; Goals: Croker 5) def. Canterbury Bulldogs 30 (Preston 2, Averillo 2, Perham; Goals: Burton 5).
NRL News Player of the Game
3. Matt Timoko (CAN)
2. Corey Horsburgh (CAN)
1. Matt Burton (CBY)