The action in Canberra turned from leadership spills to rugby league as the Raiders hosted the Rabbitohs in their final home game of the season. It was the Bunnies who got off to a quick start, skipping out to a 12-0 lead, but the Raiders clawed their way back into the game running out 24-12 winners. This game had comebacks, sin bins and one huge upset on a chilly afternoon in the nation’s capital.
1 Top four Raided yet again
The Raiders pulled off a remarkable upset last Sunday, defeating the highly fancied Roosters 14 points to 12. Few thought they could manage that upset let alone a similar ambush the following week against Souths. It didn't look great for the Green Machine early as Souths ran in two soft tries to lead 12-0.
From there, however, the Bunnies wouldn't trouble the scoreboard as the Raiders ran in four unanswered tries. It's been a big fortnight for the Raiders who have forced a massive shake-up at the top of the Premiership table. In consecutive weeks, Souths and the Roosters travelled to Canberra with the chance to claim top spot and yet neither returned with anything to show it.
Looks like we've found our giant-killers for 2018.
2 What could have been for Raiders fans
While Raiders fans have had plenty to cheer about the last two weeks, recent showings must have them wondering what could have been in 2018.
Entering the year with a relatively unchanged lineup, many predicted the Raiders to at least feature in the top eight. Their chances weren't helped when Josh Hodgson ruptured his ACL during the pre-season, and while Sivilia Havili deputised admirably, inexperience cost the Raiders dearly. Hodgson has made an immeasurable difference since returning in Round 16 and again pulled the strings against the Bunnies.
The Englishman set up the Raiders' first try with a deft grubber before throwing a superb cut out ball to put Michael Oldfield over and seal victory. A win is a win, but it must be painful for Raiders' fans to watch their team play so well when it no longer counts.
3 Where to now for the Bunnies?
Dear oh dear the Rabbitohs look to be in trouble. Losses against the Roosters and Broncos were put down as 'off weeks', but Saturday's showing against the Raiders raises serious questions about their premiership credentials.
The Bunnies were close to full strength with Alex Johnston, Campbell Graham and Greg Inglis all returning and yet even that wasn't enough to stem the flow of Raiders tries. A poor showing became an afternoon to forget when Jason Clark was sin binned after 50 minutes and from there, a 12-man Bunnies outfit, never got back into the game.
With an inferior points differential, they've given up any chance of a minor premiership and will now battle it out with the Roosters and Dragons for a home final.
4 G.I. back and looking better than ever
Greg Inglis returned from a broken thumb against the Raiders and while his Bunnies may not have collected the two points, the man himself didn't miss a beat. Scarily, Inglis looked in better physical condition than before he broke his thumb.
The Bunnies' centre ran for 199 metres, racked up a line break and nabbed a try in his first NRL match for seven weeks. While ultimately, Inglis couldn't lift the Rabbitohs out of this one, his strong return should worry a few opposition coaches as we edge closer to the finals series.
5 A fond Canberra farewell for Austin
This may have been the Raiders final home game for 2018 but it was also Blake Austin's final game in front of the Canberra faithful. Since moving from the West Tigers in 2015, Austin has featured in 86 games for the Raiders and had until recently, been a mainstay in their halves.
Austin was a huge part of the Raiders highly successful 2015 - a season where he led the Raiders to a preliminary final and was named the Dally M five-eighth of the year. Since then, Austin has found himself out of favour with coach Ricky Stuart and relegated to the bench.
Heading to the UK Super League next year, it's a shame to see Austin leaving the NRL. At only 27 years of age and with plenty left to give, it shows that there's little room for sentimentality in today's game.
What did you make of the Bunnies performance? Are they dead in 2018 or is a finals resurgence on the cards? Let us know in the comments below.
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