The civil war at Canberra promises to intensify after the troubled Raiders were blown away by an undermanned Sydney Roosters on the Central Coast.
Desperately needing a victory to ease the drama and tension between players and management, the Raiders conceded eight tries in 50 minutes to crash to a 44-16 defeat.
It is their seventh loss in eight starts.
Canberra led 10-0 early but, in an all-too-familiar theme, collapsed as soon as the blowtorch was applied.
They were simply bullied out of the game by a resilient Roosters side missing up to seven frontline players.
The night could have been even worse for Canberra, with prop Ryan James very fortunate to stay on the field after dropping his knee into Jared Waerea-Hargreaves’ head just before halftime.
James was instead sin-binned but can expect a tap on the shoulder from the match review committee
In a match full of talking points, Roosters fullback James Tedesco threw a scare through the NSW Origin camp after leaving the field with a hip pointer injury midway through the first half.
But he returned 10 minutes later to set up a try and completed the game without any apparent discomfort.
There was no return for teammate Isaac Liu, who left the ground in the back of an ambulance after suffering a haematoma to the right eye following a collision with Waerea-Hargreaves.
The Raiders entered the game seemingly at war with each other after Englishman George Williams was granted an early release following his refusal to train or be part of the match-day squad for the must-win Gosford clash.
The players, led by the influential Josh Hodgson, rallied behind the homesick No. 7 as coach Ricky Stuart and club management dug their heels in and stood by the decision to free Williams from his contract.
The outspoken Hodgson, restored to the starting side, let his actions speak louder than words early in the game.
He scored the Raiders’ first try after 19 minutes, swooping on a clever kick from countryman Elliott Whitehead.
Canberra went further ahead through a try to Corey Horsburgh and appeared to be up for the contest.
But 10-0 ahead became 28-10 behind in the blink of an eye, the courageous Roosters scoring 28 unanswered points.
The revival began with teenage sensation Joseph Suaalii grabbing his first NRL try, latching onto a spilt Lachlan Lam bomb to dive over on 30 minutes.
The tries kept coming for the Tricolours as the Raiders completely fell apart either side of halftime.
Centre Joseph Manu was outstanding, scoring two tries through a mix of ingenuity and skill.
Tedesco had NSW fans biting their nails early in the game. (Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
Freddy’s TV nightmare
Watching the game on TV from Penrith, NSW coach Brad Fittler must have felt like hurling the remote in frustration and disbelief when star fullback James Tedesco left the field clutching at his left hip.
Already missing a number of first-choice players through injury and suspension, Freddy’s plans for Origin I would be in further disarray without the brilliant No. 1
Tedesco grimaced and felt for his left hip after turning to collect a kick that led to Canberra’s first try midway through the first half.
He left the field escorted up the tunnel by a trainer before returning 10 minutes later after undergoing treatment for a hip pointer complaint.
Thankfully for the Blues, Tedesco returned to the field after receiving treatment and played out the game without missing a beat.
You could almost hear Brad Fittler’s sigh of relief from Penrith to Gosford.
Suaalii’s sweet sensation
Joseph Suaalii ticked off another major milestone, collecting his first NRL try just 30 minutes into his second game.
The 17-year-old chased a Lam bomb and was first on the spot when Raiders fullback Caleb Aekins made a hash of it.
Suaalii grabbed the Steeden and swan-dived over for a moment he will never forget.
It will be the first of many, many tries for this most gifted of rookies.
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