Raiders NRL finals’ hopes hang by a thread

Has the Green Machine broken down for 2015?

At best, Canberra are operating on just three cylinders after blowing an 18-0 lead in their 32-24 loss on Saturday night to North Queensland in Townsville.

On the surface, the players and coach Ricky Stuart would be filthy they surrendered such a lead against one of the NRL frontrunners.

But the match is set to cost them much more.

Bargain buy of the season Blake Austin was placed on report for a lifting tackle on Cowboy Gavin Cooper, who then scored a minute later.

There was also a suggestion of a trip on Jason Taumalolo late in the match.

Edrick Lee also faces a nervous wait for the charges to be read out on Monday.

There was little doubt his trip of Cowboys centre Justin O’Neill was anything but deliberate. It saved a try, but could cost him weeks on the sidelines.

To cap it off, Josh Hodgson hobbled off with an injury and did not return in the second half.

It is the last thing the Raiders need.

In the lead-up to Saturday’s match, the cards had landed favourably after Canterbury and the Warriors had both lost.

A win would have catapulted the Raiders into the top eight.

Instead, Canberra are left fighting for their season, with two players facing suspension as they need to win at least four out of five matches to remain in the hunt.

Coach Ricky Stuart said he was constantly being asked if making the eight was an expectation for the Raiders.

“Honestly, we look at each game,” he said.

“It’s disappointing because this (loss) probably makes it harder.

“But we don’t go out there sitting there and trying to count numbers, where we’ve got to be, who we’ve got to play and what we’ve got to do.

“We’ll just worry about next week.

“Then we’ll start worrying about the one after.”

Stuart declined to comment on the incidents on report.

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