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Raiders reduced to 11 but rally to run down Dogs to celebrate Ricky's contract extension in style

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17th May, 2024
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Canberra raised a few eyebrows when they re-signed Ricky Stuart earlier this week to a long-term contract extension but perhaps they know what they’re doing.

Stuart’s Green Machine continues to prove their critics wrong and cemented their spot in the top eight with a 24-20 comeback win over Canterbury to open Magic Round at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.

Hudson Young boosted his NSW Origin selection prospects with a starring two-try performance on the left edge as the Raiders, refreshed after the bye, were rewarded for their faith in rookie playmakers Ethan Sanders and Kaeo Weekes, who controlled the play brilliantly.

They managed to surge to victory despite being down to eleven players at one stage late in the opening half to celebrate Stuart’s contract extension until the end of 2029.

“Hudson played an Origin-style game tonight,” Stuart said. “Madge (NSW coach Michael Maguire) has got a big job to do.”

“I’ll be doubling the dosage of the heart tablets this week,” Stuart joked when asked about the nail-biting result.

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“Everybody who supported the Raiders or everybody who supported the Bulldogs tonight got a wonderful start to Magic Round. I don’t think there could be a greater spectacle.”

The Raiders received a gift from Connor Tracey to make the first mark on the scoreboard with the Canterbury fullback spilling the most straightforward of bombs for Xavier Savage to cash in. 

They were up 12-0 when the Bulldogs continued to be charitable with Jacob Kiraz tossing up a well-times pass for a try assist, an intercept to Canberra centre Seb Kris from close range. 

The Dogs decided to set up their own points on the half hour mark when Jacob Preston won the race to a grubber. 

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Rapana ended up in the sin bin when he took out Josh Addo-Carr after he kicked ahead in trying to score a try. 

The Foxx would never have been in the hunt, even with his blinding speed, as the ball sailed over true dead-ball like but Rapana was still banished for his unnecessary professional foul. 

Preston could have made it a double but fumbled with the line wide open before Stephen Crichton slid over to reduce the gap to just two points. 

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 17: Connor Tracey of the Bulldogs is tackled during the round 11 NRL match between Canberra Raiders and Canterbury Bulldogs at Suncorp Stadium, on May 17, 2024, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Connor Tracey. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Josh Papalii joined Rapana in the naughty corner just before halftime for a hip drop tackle which fortunately did not do major damage to Viliame Kikau’s lower leg. 

The match review committee should do plenty of damage to the Canberra veteran’s availability for the coming weeks when charges are dished out on Saturday morning.

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“It was a bit scary there for a second, but glad he’s all right,” said Bulldogs coach Cameron Ciraldo. 

Canterbury made the most of their two-player advantage on the ensuing set with Drew Hutchison dribbling a kick behind the line for Matt Burton to register a 14-12 lead at the break. 

Even with Rapana returning to the field the Dogs maintained their momentum early in the second half when Crichton’s quick hands presented Kiraz with a saloon passage to the stripe. 

Back on level terms as far as the number of players on the park, Canberra got back into the contest when Young took advantage of a poor defensive read by Hutchison to make it a two-point ball game.

They hit the front midway through the second half when Kaeo Weekes broke free and Young found his way to the line to bolster his NSW State of Origin claims.

Rapana was lucky to not be sent to the sin bin for a second time in the dying stages when he stuck his leg out to deny Reed Mahoney on a kick-chase in a try-scoring situation.

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“He is lucky to still be on the field. It’s not an accident,” said Greg Alexander on Fox League commentary.

But he stayed on the field and the Raiders hung on by the skin of their teeth to rise to a 6-4 record for the season and a ninth straight win over the Dogs.

“When we got our chance to deliver the killer punch at the end, we just didn’t take it,” Ciraldo said.

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