For the first time in more than a decade, Canberra have opened a NRL season with back-to-back wins after stunning the Sydney Roosters 21-20 at GIO Stadium.
All the odds were against the Raiders, who trailed 16-6 at halftime on Saturday and were reduced to just 15 men.
They lost veteran Shaun Fensom in the opening minute to concussion and their third playmaker in two games, debutant Lachlan Croker, to a shoulder injury at the break.
They were also without Joey Leilua for 10 minutes, the centre sin-binned for punching Dylan Napa in response to being struck in the face with a swinging arm.
But a second-half double to enforcer Josh Papalii, a 40-20 from an out-of-position Josh Hodgson and subsequent field goal to halfback Sam Williams in the dying minutes secured the Raiders their second straight win of 2016.
Not since 2005 have they started a season 2-0.
“I’ve witnessed a lot of tough wins under challenging moments and adversity, but I haven’t seen one tougher than that,” coach Ricky Stuart said.
“We just had so much desire. I often say desire and want equals success and today proved me right.
“We didn’t give up.”
The Roosters had dominated much of the game, particularly the first half, with a glut of possession.
Young trio Jackson Hastings, Jayden Nikorima and Latrell Mitchell were standouts, the latter two scoring tries, as was Blake Ferguson who returned to the centres – to boos – in his first game in Canberra since being sacked in 2013.
But with miscommunication in the closing stages, the Roosters lost their second game in a row, following last week’s 42-10 drubbing by South Sydney.
The tricolours have not lost the opening two matches to a season since 2007.
“It was obviously a bit disappointing on finishing the game,” coach Trent Robinson said.
“We probably haven’t done enough work on it – it just wasn’t clear at the end.
“It would’ve been nice to finish that off and get a point there, but it wasn’t to be.”
Croker allayed concerns about his shoulder post-match, confident he would be good to go next week against Newcastle.
The 19-year-old had been called in to replace Dally M five-eighth of the year Blake Austin (knee), alongside Sam Williams who replaced injured recruit Aidan Sezer (eye socket).
“The camaraderie and the spirit they are building through a lot of hard work, I’m really proud to be involved in it,” Stuart added.
Aside from their injury woes, the Raiders face an anxious wait from the match review committee after Leilua was put on report for an alleged spear tackle on Shaun Kenny-Dowell.
Napa was also twice put on report for his swinging arm on Leilua and another on Jordan Rapana.
The Roosters will travel straight to Townsville for a Thursday night clash with defending premiers North Queensland, while the Raiders play the Knights on Saturday at Hunter Stadium.