Final round loss for Toyota Cup Raiders
The Canberra Raiders Toyota Cup side were the better side for the majority of the contest against the sixth placed Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs yesterday at ANZ Stadium until two tries in the final three minutes tore Canberra’s hearts out and ended their season in disappointing fashion.
The young Raiders lead 28-22 in the final ten minutes of the match and were looking to finish their season on a high until a great offload by Jake Finn allowed TJ Taotua to race forty five metres to score in the 71st minute to level scores for the home side and confirm an exciting finish to the match.
Then in an excruciatingly heartbreaking end to Canberra’s season, Bulldogs Captain and NYC prop of the year, Dale Finucane, burst through Canberra’s defence to put Canterbury in front with three minutes remaining.
Boom Canterbury fullback Daniel Abou-Sleiman then rubbed salt into Canberra’s gaping wounds by notching his 18th try of the season in the 79th minute in what was a cruel blow to the Green Machine after they had contained him so well all match with a marvellous kick chase pattern.
“It was disappointing not to finish the season with a win but they were a top eight side and we looked at coming out and blowing them off the park and I think we did give them a bit of a shock so I’m proud of the boys today,” said Captain Matt McIlwrick.
“We’ve been understaffed all year and it was the same today but there’s no room for excuses. We didn’t win but it was a good result in the end with the character the boys showed considering their inexperience.”
Coach David Hamilton thoroughly agreed with his skipper.
“It was a heartbreaking way to lose but the effort there was outstanding. It was just inexperience more than anything. There were some tough calls out there and Jack Wighton, Edrick Lee and Chris Medcalf didn’t play and that made a difference as it impacted on our combinations but that’s not the reason we lost.”
“We’ve always been right there in the contest every game and I can never question the effort of this side.”
The young Raiders have been cruelled by injuries and first grade promotions to key players consistently during the year which has forced Hamilton to blood several promising youngsters ahead of their desired time. Hamilton though, has been pleased with their development over the course of the season and highlights they experience gained this year as a positive element in next year’s campaign.
“I thought I’d give two guys opportunities throughout the season but I ended up giving nine guys opportunities so they’ll take a hell of a lot out of the experience and it will put us in very good stead for next season.”
One of those players is NSW under 18s Captain Jack Wighton, who has been a revelation this year with his confrontational defence, natural athletic ability and riveting attacking enterprise. He is sure to be a key fixture in next year’s side as Hamilton will look to improve on this year’s 11th placed finish. Source: raiders.com.au