Canberra’s new look halves combination of Blake Austin and Sam Williams has steered the Raiders to a 29-16 NRL win over Manly in Albury, the hapless Sea Eagles crashing to their worst season start since 2009.
Williams replaced Mitch Cornish at halfback for the Raiders following their thumping at the hands of Sydney Roosters last week and it worked a treat for coach Ricky Stuart as Canberra recorded just their second win of the year.
For injury-hit Manly, who took the round-five fixture away from Brookvale Oval to Lavington Sports Ground in NSW’s south, one of the few highlights was the eye-catching debut of young gun Tom Trbojevic.
The 18-year-old scored with his first NRL touch after just 122 seconds and added another try in the second half in an impressive first-up effort.
The loss sinks Manly to 1-4, their worst season start since losing their first four games in 2009, Kieran Foran’s first year with the club.
But Canberra were deserved winners led by man of the match Austin, who was ably supported by Williams.
After Trbojevic’s opening try, Canberra laid on 23 unanswered points to lead 23-4 at the break.
Sisa Waqa opened the Raiders’ account in the 11th minute when he beat a poor attempted tackle from Cheyse Blair, before Austin stepped his way over just three minutes later after a Josh Hodgson break from dummy half.
Austin then put Jarrad Kennedy over in the 24th minute and the Raiders led 16-4, until Jordan Rapana crossed four minutes before the break after Waqa tapped down a Williams kick.
A Williams field goal in the shadows of halftime put the Raiders further ahead.
Canberra built on that after the break when Jarrod Croker crossed out wide and converted to give his team a near unassailable lead of 29-4.
That was before Manly mounted a late comeback.
Trbojevic crossed for his second after a lovely tap-on from Brett Stewart in the 60th minute.
Blair then latched onto a clever cross-kick from Foran nine minutes later to set up a chance of an unlikely Sea Eagles win, but Canberra held firm.