Undermanned Canberra ditches ‘faders’ tag

The Canberra Raiders have survived the send-off of Josh Papalii to beat their second-half hoodoo and claw their way to a 20-18 dramatic comeback win against the Bulldogs.

Papalii was sent off in the 61st minute after a headhigh tackle on Bulldogs winger Tui Katoa while his team was already down a man with Jack Wighton in the bin.

The NRL’s crackdown on high shots was labelled a farce in some circles after multiple players were placed on report and sent to the sin bin in the opening two games of Magic Round.

But Papalii’s tackle on Katoa, labelled “contact direct to the head, it’s forceful” became a real-time test case of the new guidelines.

Referee Chris Butler had little choice but to send Papalii off after the contact, which led to Katoa leaving the field and failing his HIA.

The send-off left the Raiders with just 11 men for three minutes after Jack Wighton was sin binned for being the third man into a tackle in which he cannoned into the legs of Adam Elliott.

Wighton was also placed on report for the “forceful, unnecessary” tackle and faces a nervous wait before the Match Review Committee determines his fate.

The penalties only seemed to galvanise the Raiders though, who were trailing 12-8 at the time after the Dogs scored two second-half tries to reel in Canberra’s 8-0 halftime lead.

After conceding 93 points in the second halves of their past five losses, the Raiders seemed doomed to fade again but dug deep, with Curtis Scott and Sebastian Kris scoring tries to give them a matchwinning lead before the Dogs crossed for a consolation try in the dying seconds.

NRL CRACKDOWN CONTINUES

After just one penalty in the first half, it seemed the Bulldogs-Raiders match would defy Friday’s trend of reports and sin bins but the drama was yet to come.

Four players ended up on report, with Josh Hodgson placed cited a minute after Papalii was sent off for working a man on the ground, while the Dogs’ Ava Seumanufagai was on report in the 66th minute for a late tackle.

No one could argue with either Wighton or Papalii being marched though, with their infringements clear.

Fox League commentator Michael Ennis called the second stanza “one of the craziest halves” of the season. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images

PAPALII IN ORIGIN DANGER

Papalii could pay a massive price for his high shot, with a charge higher than a grade 2 high tackle ruling him ineligible for Origin I.

It was a sad blot on his copy book given his efforts in the opening half helped set up the Raiders’ lead.

Plenty was said during the week about Ricky Stuart’s “difficult conversations” with his players but the challenge he put to Josh Papalii paid obvious dividends, with the front rower having an explosive influence on the game.

The Origin front-rower had 67m in the opening half alone, as well as two tackle breaks and two offloads and it was his run that started the movement that led to Corey Harawira-Naera’s first-half try.

DOGS HALVES

Bulldogs halves Jake Averillo and Brandon Wakeham were under the microscope after Kyle Flanagan’s axing and the Bulldogs’ indelicate handling of the situation.

It was the Dogs’ strong running through the middle that set up the opportunities for them to strike out wide, though, and Averillo in particular would have been unhappy with some of his efforts, including a second-half kick which handed the Raiders a seven-tackle set and released the pressure valve.

HODGSON BACK IN GREEN

The former Raiders co-captain made his return from a calf injury and had an almost immediate impact after coming on early in the second half.

Initially playing at first receiver, he touched the ball three times in the first attacking set he played and went looking for the ball.

But he was put on report in the 62nd minute for working a man over on the ground, putting further pressure on the Raiders after Papalii and Wighton were marched.

CANBERRA RAIDERS 20 (Tries: Harawira-Naera, Scott, Kris; Goals: Williams 4) def

CANTERBURY BULLDOGS 18 (Tries: Cotric; Meaney, Watene-Zelezniak; Goals: Averillo 3)

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