Canberra Raiders young gun Nick Cotrics Origin hopes hang in the balance after he limped off with an ankle injury, but it wasnt the only drama in a fiery clash on Thursday night.
Canberra held on to win a thriller 22-20 after leading 20-0 early.
With NSW coach Brad Fittler watching, Raiders five-eighth Jack Wighton showed some flashes of brilliance and also some errors. He set up a couple of tries, produced a crucial goal-line drop out, but also kicked a ball out on the full. Cotric will be racing the clock for Origin II in Perth on Sunday week.
The Raiders flew out of the sheds, while the Sharks seemed to stumble out – especially Cronulla fullback Matt Moylan.
He dropped a massive Wighton bomb and from then on drew the Bronx cheer from the crowd every time a kick came his way.
The Sharks will be sweating on their star prop Andrew Fifita, who sparked a melee with a flop on a prone Aidan Sezer and was also put on report for a crusher tackle on Ryan Sutton. Cronulla lost centre Bronson Xerri, who only managed 25 minutes before failing a head injury assessment.
Queensland prop Josh Papalii was in everything in his opening 30-minute stint, charging for 117 metres and finishing the game with 177m. With all the talk about NSWs halves for Origin II, Fittler would have taken notice of both the Raiders playmakers. Sezer opened the scoring with a dummy and a right-foot step.
Then Wighton kicked into overdrive to stake his claim for the Blues No.6 jersey. Undaunted by his Origin I intercept, he threw a beautiful cut-out pass for his captain Jarrod Croker to tip on for Bailey Simonsson to dive in.
Then he went short for Croker to charge through. That put the Raiders up 20-0 after 22 minutes.
But with a returning Shaun Johnson finding his rhythm and Wade Graham enjoying a running battle with Raiders back-rower John Bateman, the Sharks mounted a comeback.
Halfback Chad Townsend grubbered in behind for Josh Dugan to score, and they were in again before the break when Josh Morris pounced on a loose ball to charge over and make it 20-8 at half-time.
Sharks prop Braden Hamlin-Uele burst through almost untouched and then Dugan took advantage of numbers to score his second against his old club.
Croker stepped up to nail a 35-metre penalty goal for the lead, before producing a late intercept to seal a tense victory.
It was a record-breaking night for the veteran centre, whose first-half try equalled Raiders great Jason Croker as the clubs all-time leading tryscorer (120 tries).
It came on the same night the Canberra captain also equalled Laurie Daley as the clubs second-most capped player with 244 games.
Jason Croker has played the most gRead More – Source