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The Canberra Raiders are through to week two of the NRL finals after a controversial 32-20 win over the Cronulla Sharks in the first elimination final. The Sharks, who started strongly and put in a brave performance in the nation’s capital, taking it to the Raiders throughout the first half. Watch the 2020 NRL Telstra…

The Canberra Raiders are through to week two of the NRL finals after a controversial 32-20 win over the Cronulla Sharks in the first elimination final.

The Sharks, who started strongly and put in a brave performance in the nation’s capital, taking it to the Raiders throughout the first half.

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Unfancied by many the Sharks put in a tremendous effort, leading 14-6 late in the first half.

But an intercept to the Raiders’ George Williams made it 14-10 at the break and gave the home side a sniff.

It was all they needed as the side ran in four second half tries to blow the Sharks away.

It was what was expected from the Raiders but it wasn’t without controversy.

In the 46th minute, Jack Wighton crossed the line next to the posts to make after a penalty tap in controversial circumstances.

20m out, Andrew Fifita laid on a tackle and gave away a ruck infringement penalty, but the Sharks appeared to relax when captain Wade Graham tried to call for a captain’s challenge.

But Wighton took a quick tap and ran it in the score the try.

Graham was furious with the call.

“I’m challenging and then you played on. I don’t understand,” he said to the referee.

“The six again…when play breaks down, we have to blow a penalty,” referee Grant Atkins said. “That’s the first element.

“The second element is that he tapped the ball before any challenge was made.

Graham said “No. No. I yelled out straight away, Fifita was on the ground and I said ‘challenge’.”

“The third element,” the referee continued. “It’s ruck interference which you can’t challenge. Ruck interference is six again.”

Wade said: “No, ruck interference is six again?”

“No mate, the penalty is for ruck interference which you can’t challenge. You can’t challenge ruck interference and he tapped it before you challenged.”

Braith Anasta said it was the “confusion of the new rule” with Graham taking himself out of the defensive line to score the try.

“The Cronulla Sharks stopping because they’ve heard their captain challenge has opened that space for Wighton to run through and score that try,” Anasta said, agreeing it was a legitimate try but that it was confusing nonetheless.

Anasta said it was a “tough call” as he said Graham had called the challenge before the tap, while commentator Dan Ginnane called it a “devastating blow”.

Play the whistle! If you can’t challenge it, then it’s play on?? #NRLRaidersSharks #NRL

— Joshua Wells (@joshuawells93) October 3, 2020

Tough call man! #NRLRaidersSharks

— Chloe-Amanda Bailey (@ChloeAmandaB) October 3, 2020

On Channel 9, Brad Fittler and Phil Gould backed the decision.

“I’ve got to say, grant Atkins explained that very clearly,” Fittler said.

“it was a penalty, the Sharks went to sleep and Wighton took advantage. Fair try.”

Phil Gould added: “I love it, there should be more of it.”

But it proved to be the turning point in the game with the Raiders piling on two more tries – a second each to Wighton and George Williams – to open up a 28-14 lead after 57 minutes, after three tries in 10 minutes before Elliott Whitehead crossed to make it a 32-14 ball game.

Sione Katoa scored a late intercept try for a consolation but it wasn’t enough.

The Sharks burst out of the blocks in the first half, scoring a penalty goal to kick off the scoring.

Cronulla were unlucky not to have a man advantage as well after it appeared the Raiders’ John Bateman tripped Sharks forward Braden Hamlin-Uele.

Although Cronulla conceded the first try in a soft defensive effort when six players fell of Joseph Tapine for the Raiders lock to score next to the post.

The Sharks then scored through Ronaldo Mulitalo and Blayke Brailey to take a big advantage until Williams’ intercept changed the game.

Updates


Andrew McMurtry

The Cronulla Sharks have been left fuming after a penalty in the ruck led to a quick tap from the Raiders’ Jack Wighton to pinch the lead in the elimination final.

10m out, Andrew Fifita laid on the tackle and gave away a penalty, but as Sharks captain tried to call a captain’s challenge, Wighton took off with a quick tap and scored.

But Graham was left furious.

“I’m challenging and then you played on. I don’t understand,” he said to the referee.

“The six again…when play breaks down, we have to blow a penalty,” referee Grant Atkins said. “That’s the first element.

“The second element is that he tapped the ball before any challenge was made.

Graham said “No. No. I yelled out straight away, Fifita was on the ground and I said ‘challenge’.”

“The third element,” the referee continued. “It’s ruck interference which you can’t challenge. Ruck interference is six again.”

Wade said: “No, ruck interference is six again?”

“No mate, the penalty is for ruck interference which you can’t challenge. You can’t challenge ruck interference and he tapped it before you challenged.”

Braith Anasta said it was the “confusion of the new rule” with Graham taking himself out of the defensive line to score the try.

“The Cronulla Sharks stopping because they’ve heard their captain challenge has opened that space for Wighton to run through and score that try,” Anasta said, agreeing it was a legitimate try but that it was confusing nonetheless.

Anasta said it was a “tough call” as he said Graham had called the challenge before the tap, while commentator Dan Ginnane called it a “devastating blow”.

Social media was divided by the call.

On Channel 9, Brad Fittler and Phil Gould backed the decision.

“I’ve got to say, grant Atkins explained that very clearly,” Fittler said.

“it was a penalty, the Sharks went to sleep and Wighton took advantage. Fair try.”

Phil Gould added: “I love it, there should be more of it.”

But it’s proved to be the turning point in the game with the Raiders piling on two more tries – a second each to Wighton and George Williams – to open up a 28-14 lead after 57 minutes, after three tries in 10 minutes.


Andrew McMurtry

Raiders halfback George Williams has turned the game on its head after a stunning intercept try.

As Sharks captain Wade Graham crossed the field, he threw the pass with the English star knocking the ball out of the air for himself and running 65m to the line.

With two minutes left in the half, it could have been fairly dire for the Raiders but 14-10 looks a lot better than 14-6 for the uncharacteristically lethargic Canberra.


Andrew McMurtry

Before the tries were scored, the Sharks went up 2-0 after a penalty when John Bateman appeared to trip Braden Hamlin-Uele.

After a kick behind saw Chad Townsend knock on the grounding, Hamlin-Uele was left on the ground in back play after Bateman appeared to move across to block the prop from running through.

On Channel 9, NSW Origin coach Brad Fittler and Phil Gould debated the decision after Bateman stayed on the field.

Fittler was baffled that it wasn’t a sin bin.

“I don’t know how (he’s avoided a sin-bin),” Fittler said. “The rule is deliberate. He deliberately put his foot out without a doubt.”

Gould responded: “Well what they could be saying is that Uele was no chance of scoring a try, the Raiders had too many players there.”

Fittler: “It still doesn’t matter. I don’t think it’s the try-scoring. It matters that it was deliberate. A professional foul. He actually put his foot out to stop him going through.”

Gould: “I understand that but they haven’t sin-binned him. Now, why haven’t they sin binned him? Because I don’t think they thought he could have scored a try.”

Fittler: “I’m not sure if that should come into play though. A professional foul doesn’t mean that it has to be a try-scoring opportunity.”

Gould: “All I’m saying is what the referees have done, Bradley.”

Fittler: “I’m just not happy with them, Phil.”

While the Sharks were largely written off before the game, they are making the Raiders look sluggish, taking an 8-6 lead after 22 minutes.

But a knock on coming off their own line has handed Blayke Brailey a try, as he slammed the ball down under the posts for a shock 14-6 lead after 28 minutes.


Andrew McMurtry

The Canberra Raiders have crossed the line first after the Sharks’ strong start but more concerning than conceding a try was how it was conceded.

The Raiders went 2-0 down after a bombed try saw a penalty given to the Sharks as John Bateman appeared to trip Braden Hamlin-Uele.

But it wasn’t deemed a professional foul and the Sharks took the two.

But in the next set, a penalty to the Raiders gave the side field position and it took just two tackles for Nick Cotric to almost cross in the corner.

Passing across, Raiders lock Joseph Tapine looked to be swamped but brushed off the Sharks defence to slam the ball down under the posts.

Fox League’s Braith Anasta said: “I don’t want to take anything away from Tapine because I’m a huge fan and he’s had a great year but that was just way too easy. Not only that try but almost conceding a try to Cotric only the play before hand in their first defensive set on their try line, not much resolve at all from the Sharks and not a good sign early in this game.”

However, they’re not alone with Channel 9’s Phil Gould slamming the Raiders for being lazy in defence.

And it was only a matter of time with Ronaldo Mulitalo scoring in the corner.


Andrew McMurtry

Josh Papalii will be wearing one of his best moments of the season, the incredible ankle tap on the Titans’ Jamal Fogarty where he chased the half close to 60m.

It was an inspirational moment and now it will be immortalised – on the budgie smugglers the big man himself will be wearing during the game.

While an important message for the Raiders that “anything can happen” is also on the garment.

No team has ever won the comp from outside the top four under the current finals format, with North Queensland’s improbable run to the grand final from eighth in 2017 the only example of a team making the decider from outside the top four.

SMH spoke to Papalii after Budgy Smugglers owner and Raiders fan Adam Linforth sent Papalii 30 pairs of the undies emblazed with his incredible feat.

“I can squeeze into a size 38, but because of my fat arse I tend to go a size bigger,” Papalii said.

“They’re ones I’ll keep in the cupboard for a long time.

“I’ll be wearing the ‘Fogartys’ against Cronulla on Saturday night.

“I’d be lying if I said that hurt from the grand final loss wasn’t driving me.

“That memory still sits with me. We went so close, that was our game for the taking, we chose not to take it, but hopefully we learn from that and we can ice it this year.

“We have to play every game like it’s our last. We haven’t clicked as a team yet, so it would be nice to do for the last four games.”

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