Fijian rookie Semi Valemei’s first try in the Telstra Premiership proved the difference, as the Raiders gamely rallied for an 18-12 victory over South Sydney in wet conditions at GIO Stadium on Saturday night.
The Rabbitohs led 12-10 until a Jarrod Croker penalty goal and Valemei’s effort on the left edge secured another two competition points for the Green Machine, who lost Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad to a compound dislocation of the finger in another blow for the club.
South Sydney stormed home in similar fashion to last week’s effort over the Knights but the greasy conditions wreaked havoc on their completion rate late in the match.
Four days after announcing his defection to the Bulldogs from next season, Nick Cotric delivered an acrobatic effort to open the scoring for the home side when he finished off a George Williams cross-kick.
Cotric’s effort on the right edge was matched by Raiders skipper Croker seven minutes later with a miraculous pick up of a grubber kick in slippery conditions extending the Raiders’ lead to 10.
The Rabbitohs lost Alex Johnston to a head knock early in the first half, opening the door for Jack Johns to make his NRL debut much earlier than anticipated – his famous father Matt and mother Trish in the stands watching on.
Johns got through 35 minutes before he was brought from the field for a HIA of his own after some friendly fire from Rabbitohs teammate Mark Nicholls.
The Bunnies strung together two tries in four minutes to take the lead midway through the first half in similar vein to last week’s roll on against the Knights.
Dane Gagai continued his recent strong try-scoring form to cross in the corner before Jaydn Su’A sent Adam Reynolds over with an inside pass on the right edge.
Raiders back-rower Elliott Whitehead was denied a try before half-time after some obstruction ruled by the NRL Bunker in the lead-up.
A penalty goal after the break via Croker levelled the scores and set up a grinding second half as the rain began to fall on GIO Stadium.
A richochet from a short-side grubber from Elliott Whitehead enabled Canberra to regain the lead in the 56th minute through Valemei.
The injury to Nicoll-Klokstad sent Jordan Rapana to fullback for the remainder of the game until he too left the field for a HIA and didn’t return.
Thomas Burgess had an eventful five minutes, losing the ball as he reached for the try line before a barnstorming run gave the visitors a chance to tie the game.