Resurgent Raiders stun Manly with 26-24 comeback win

George Clarke |

Canberra have hit back in a powerhouse second half to upset Manly 26-24.
Canberra have hit back in a powerhouse second half to upset Manly 26-24.

Canberra have completed a remarkable comeback, overturning a 20-point deficit to upset Manly 26-24 and breathe life into their NRL season.

Trailing 20-0 after 30 minutes on Friday night – a week on from a 40-0 home loss to Cronulla – the Raiders needed a response at Brookvale Oval.

And the inspiration came in the shape of veteran captain Elliott Whitehead, who was the unlikely hero for the Raiders, rolling back the years as he set up one try and scored two more.

Stand-in halfback Kaeo Weekes was also impressive for the Green Machine, rising to the occasion against his junior club and showing a solid kicking game out of hand and off the tee.

It wasn’t until the 77th minute, however, that the Raiders took the lead when Ethan Strange’s grubber kick to the in-goal was pounced on by Hudson Young.

His try wrapped up a nail-biting win on what had earlier shaped as a gruesome night for Ricky Stuart’s men.

Hudson Young scoring.
Hudson Young was among the scorers as the Raiders charged back in the second half. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

Canberra could barely contain Manly and it didn’t take long for the heavily-fancied Sea Eagles to slice through some flimsy defence when Tom Trbojevic crossed after nine minutes.

The Raiders flung the ball wide to Whitehead, chancing their arm as they searched for an immediate response.

But as Canberra’s captain attempted to reel it in, Manly’s Tommy Talau picked his pocket and ran 40m to touch down.

It wasn’t to be the only pain the Raiders would inflict on themselves in a worrying first half.

Strange failed to deal with a grubber to the in-goal that was seized upon by Daly Cherry-Evans for the home side’s third try.

Reuben Garrick also scored through in the gap left by Canberra centre Albert Hopoate, after referee Grant Atkins lost patience with the Raiders’ offsides and ruck-spoiling tactics.

But being down by only 20 points – after Garrick missed two of his four first-half conversion attempts – meant Canberra had something to play for.

Daly Cherry-Evans.
Daly Cherry-Evans scored to help set up Manly’s big lead but had nowhere to look in the second half. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

Whitehead intercepted a stray pass and offloaded to Weekes who scored and then converted his own try to give Canberra a sniff as they trailed 20-6 at the break. 

Garrick glided in soon after halftime but again failed to convert and the Raiders responded through a rare Whitehead double.

The Englishman powered over on a crash ball before he gathered a Corey Waddell knock-on and raced up the middle to pull the Raiders to within six points with 20 minutes left.

Manly were nervous, and then had good reason to be, when a stabbed Weekes kick behind their defensive line was picked up and put down in the corner by Nick Cotric.

Weekes was unable to add the sideline conversion but when Young touched down it mattered little, with the Raiders surviving a chaotic last two minutes to hang on for the win.