Ricky Stuart needs to fully explain himself over his rant against Jaeman Salmon.
Canberra have tackled their way to a potentially vital victory over the Sydney Roosters, withstanding several onslaughts from their opponents to nick a 22-16 win.
The Raiders conceded most of the territory and invited the Chooks in, but were repeatedly able to repel them, with several saving tackles of Sitili Tupouniua, Joey Manu and Joseph Suaalii.
Ryan Sutton, Hudson Young and Elliott Whitehead were particularly impressive, as much through individual moments of effort to stop tries as the Raiders, for perhaps the first time this year, shed their ‘faders’ tag and kept up their effort for 80 minutes.
“It was a tough win,” said Ricky Stuart. “It was going to be a grinding, gritty game because we knew what the weather was going to be, and we prepared for it and played accordingly.
“We made tackles that if we had made last week, we win that one too. I think we can play better than tonight, there’s stuff we can easily improve on. There’s some areas we have to fix up, and we strive to be better.”
Trent Robinson will be irritated as old problems that had looked banished of late returned with a vengeance. Their goalline defence, once the best in the league, was suspect again and the attacking problems that pervaded early in the season were back.
The Origin absentees, particularly James Tedesco, were missed – but Robinson will still have expected better from his side.
“We were really stop start, the whole first half with penalties and errors,” said the Roosters’ coach. “I thought we lost the ruck. They were more dominant in the way that they carried.
“We asked enough questions to get the points we needed to win that game but overall disappointing to not to pressure right to the end there.
“Credit to them, they deserved to win. They scrapped hard and we let in one right through the middle of our ruck, we missed two tackles straight for tries and there was a charge down.
“We let in 22 points and then missed the opportunities that we had so ended up with the scoreline that we go. We didn’t deserve to win.
“We needed more guys to attack the moments right from the start and not wait for the scoreline to tell us to move. From the start we needed to win our battles and we missed that.”
The Roosters have been soft up the middle at times – as anyone who saw Francis Molo’s try on ANZAC Day will know – and the problems flared up again here.
It was as simple as it comes: one pass off the ruck, Adam Elliott stepping inside and the red sea parting to allow the backrower to score.
The Raiders were much more resilient in defence. Twice, Suaalii went for high balls and was denied, as was Angus Crichton.
Robinson has emphasised attacking with patience, and it paid off. After being invited back in several times by Raiders errors, the weight of pressure told.
Manu injected himself into the game, fending off several tacklers before flicking on to Tupouniua. He still had plenty to do, but had the strength to carry a few with him en route to the line.
There was an immediate response. Sutton, impressive all afternoon, was able to poke his nose through the line and offload to Xavier Savage, who picked the ball off his bootlaces and dived in.
The traffic remained almost exclusively in Canberra’s end, but their defence was outstanding. Luke Keary put Tupouniua through a huge hole to create another good ball session, but the scramble was always able to cope.
Even when the Raiders got the ball, their error rate was crippling them. Seb Kris dropped the ball on the first, prompting yet more tackling, but eventually Hudson Young forced an error that got Canberra to the sheds 12-6 up.
Young’s energy in defence paid yet more dividends. He charged down a Keary kick – exatly the sort of 1% effort plays that the Raiders were not making earlier in the year – and was able to regather and pass on to Kris to go the rest of the way.
With a 12-point buffer, the Raiders opted to sit in. Though the Roosters aren’t at their best in attack, it wasn’t a sustainable policy.
Tupouniua twice went close, with one a true trysaver from Whitehead, before Sam Walker cracked the defence, fed Crichton and he put Paul Momirovski under the posts.
Still attempting to play one out footy, Canberra then had the ball stolen from them by Siosiua Taukeiaho. Keary, who had took aim at Suaalii twice in the first half, did so again and found his man rising highest. Only a missed conversion from the touchline kept the Raiders in front.
They needed to show something in attack, and for the first time in the second half, they did. Again, it was aided by less than stellar goalline defence, as Matt Timoko was able to skirt round a poor effort from Momirovski to score.
The deficit stood at six after the missed conversion, and naturally, when given the chance, the Raiders had to go for the game-sealing field goal. They missed, gifting a seven tackle set, but some heroic defence on the last play was able to deny Suaalii and hand Canberra the victory.