There are no easy games in the NRL.

It's a simple matter to forget that in the overwhelming majority of cases, players that get an NRL start have earned that right. Be that an outstanding set of results in the reserves, or a history of playing under-18s and under-20s representative football.

As the match preview mentioned, Canberra had a dismal round 8, getting pumped by the Sharks, and barely firing a shot. And when they produced some footy, they were let down by handling errors (cough Danny Levi cough)

Now, nobody expected the Raiders to do what they did on Friday night. Only the most hardcore of green faithful would've watched that game with anything but a weary sense of resignation about the second pump-handling in two weeks they were going to receive.

And, at 20-nil down, with Albert Hopoate in the sin-bin, it seemed to be a question of how much the Raiders would lose by.

Then Elliott Whitehead took the goofiest intercept of all time before the end of the half for Kaeo Weeks to score his first NRL try, and...

...well, it still looked like Canberra were going to lose, because Manly equalized soon after.

The thing was, Canberra weren't playing that poorly. They were getting quick play the balls, completing in the high 80s, and the rain shifted the game into the territory of a forward battle - which the Raiders typically enjoy, as it leaves the game in the hands of their veterans.

Ricky said it best in the post game press conference. Manly were being handed penalties and set restarts like candy in the first half, and although Canberra were being blown off of the park, the Sea Iggles weren't going to be able to rely on that all game.

And, lo and behold, Manly's glut of possession slowed down, and the Raider forwards rolled up their sleeves. And in the middle of the game, Elliott Whitehead chose his moment to have a career-best game.

And so from 20-nil down, Canberra dragged themselves out of the muck, all the way to 24-22. Then Manly couldn't keep discipline on their try line, and Ethan Strange produced one of the all time Hudson Young matchwinners.

But of course, the game wasn't over. Daly Cherry Evans had a chance to kick a 40m field goal to equalize, and missed by the skin of his teeth.

Out of nowhere, Canberra produced an all-time boilover, from 20-0 down, with a halves pairing that could generously be described as "fresh".

After not scoring a point.

Sometimes, dreams really do come true. Although for the Sea Eagles, I'm sure it counts as a nightmare. But I'm not so fussed about what they think.

The real wash-up for me is that Canberra is still trying. Yes, they were flat against the Sharks - no argument from me. But with Jamal Fogarty taking an extended holiday, Ricky warned the faithful to be patient.

But I'm not sure how patient they have to be - after all, Seb Kris once again proved to be an absolute rock at fullback, taking brutal runs and driving the Raiders out of the back third - and Albert Hopoate, burns or not, proved to be the steadying force on the right hand side.

And despite Zac Hosking supposedly sending Elliott Whitehead to the unemployment line, he produced the best (forty) minutes of the season. And the voice of experience is probably what keeps him in the side going forward.

But in a way, the next ten weeks are playing with house money. No-one expects Canberra to be good - their season is supposed to be done, remember - so the pressure's off.

With that freedom, I wonder what the Raiders will cook up next week? Or, more accurately, the week after the bye, when they run the Queensland gauntlet.

Raiders v Bulldogs, then Raiders v Dolphins. Three weeks in the sunshine state. Might be tough.

Catch you next time,

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