Horsburgh the hero as Canberra withstand Sharks fightback to get on the board for 2023
Canberra have overcome their growing injury crisis to grab a vital early season NRL victory, hanging on to win 24-20 against Cronulla in a nail-biter at GIO Stadium.
Missing star prop Josh Papali’i, Xavier Savage and wingers Nick Cotric and Jordan Rapana, the Raiders lost hooker Danny Levi to a suspected broken jaw just minutes into Sunday’s match but didn’t let that stop them taking the thrilling victory.
They led 24-10 on 56 minutes but had to hang on for dear life at the end, after back-to-back Cronulla tries had the home side threatening to pinch the points before Canberra’s defence dug in to ice the result.
It was the win the Raiders desperately needed, having been unlucky to lose their two opening matches of the year on their two-game tour of Queensland.
Their hero was Corey Horsburgh, the bench prop scoring two tries and doubling his 63-game career tally in the process with a pair of devastating runs Cronulla had minimal chance of stopping.
In remarkable scenes, Horsburgh was punched by Sharks enforcer Royce Hunt in the back field but got up and scored with the next play, as the Raiders stamped their authority on the contest.
Hunt was sin-binned for the punch but Cronulla scored despite being a man down through Jesse Ramien, while they drew to within a single score when second-rower Briton Nikora crossed with seven minutes to play.
WIthout their Dally M-winning halfback Nicho Hynes (calf), they benefited from a sharp attacking display from dynamic winger Ronaldo Mulitalo, who created the game’s opening try with magical footwork before scoring one courtesy of Will Kennedy’s delicate kick.
The Raiders struck back with a beautiful Jack Wighton cut-out pass allowing Albert Hopoate to score in the corner, and led when Horsburgh crashed over from close range.
Raider centre Matt Timoko gave them some breathing room early in the second with a trademark bustling try, breaking tackles and surging over the line for 18-10.
Bench hooker Tom Starling played nearly 80 minutes after Levi’s early injury and turned in a quality display, finding two try assists and steering Canberra around the park with class.
Raiders star Joe Tapine churned out a game-high 158m, while Siosifa Talakai led Cronulla with 150m.
The loss leaves Cronulla 1-2 although they won’t be panicking, particularly with Hynes expected back as soon as next Sunday’s clash with New Zealand.
Deputising for Hynes, halfback Braydon Trindall continued to show his class with two try assists.