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Raiders stave off Roosters' charge

NZN 28/05/2017 Matt Coughlan

Canberra's season has been unfairly criticised, according to coach Ricky Stuart in the wake of a grinding, scrappy 24-16 win over an Origin-depleted Sydney Roosters.

Back-to-back NRL victories have improved the Raiders' record to 6-6 and lifted last season's preliminary finalists to seventh.

"I don't see any other team in the competition that keep getting compared to last year like we do," Stuart said.

"I don't see any other footy team in the competition keep copping the criticism over not scoring points or the way they're playing."

Jordan Rapana was instrumental in setting the platform for the victory, collecting a first half-double in front of the home crowd of 14,786.

Despite being without Mitchell Pearce, Boyd Cordner, Dylan Napa, Aidan Guerra and Blake Ferguson, the new-look Roosters pushed Canberra late.

In contrast, the Raiders were only missing Queensland forward Josh Papalii and the man who replaced him in the second row, veteran Sia Soliola, was superb in defence and attack.

Roosters skipper Jake Friend opened the scoring after 10 minutes with a slip-through dummy half dart.

Rapana responded three minutes later, turning Daniel Tupou inside out before defying Kane Evans' attempted turtle manoeuvre on the line.

Quick hands allowed Rapana to put the Raiders in front 10 minutes later but he still had some work to do after centre Joey Leilua's final pass, which again underlined the pair's lethal right-edge combination.

Jarrod Croker surpassed 1500 career NRL points just before the half-hour by getting on the end of an Aidan Sezer grubber and then made it 16-6 with his conversion.

Stuart said completing 16 of their 19 first-half sets had helped set up the opportunities for his speed men.

"We haven't had those types of stats over the last month and I thought we were more disciplined with the football tonight," he said.

Superb athleticism by Joseph Manu to find the in-goal as he sailed over the corner post with 18 minutes remaining got the Roosters back in the hunt, with Michael Gordon's sideline conversion reducing the margin to four.

A Croker penalty opened up an 18-12 lead for the home side but a deft short ball from Luke Keary and brilliant run from Gordon sent Latrell Mitchell on his way and got the visitors back within two points.

Asked if the Roosters' charge had made him nervous, Stuart said: "You'd have to be Superman not to be".

A Sezer try following a Roosters fumble on full-time put paid to any ideas the Chooks had of pulling off a miracle.

Coach Trent Robinson said he was disappointed with the loss but proud of the way his side fought back.

"We had five out but that's not the point," he said.

"If we want to be the best team then there was enough guys out there to finish that off and we didn't."

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