SATURDAY’S 32-18 win allowed Canberra’s under-20s to surge three points clear at the top of the ladder, but it could come at a cost after halfback Mitch Cornish suffered an ankle injury.
Outstanding in his return from two weeks off with a hamstring issue, Cornish copped a late knock and will have scans on Monday.
It left a bitter aftertaste to a crucial Raiders win, who dominated the second half against the second-placed Panthers to solidify the competition lead
Canberra is yet to taste defeat since its round one loss to Penrith, registering 11 wins and a draw in a remarkable unbeaten run.
Despite losing star playmaker Anthony Milford to first grade, the Raiders youngsters haven’t missed a beat and are well placed to add another under-20 title to Canberra’s 2008 triumph.
Trailing 12-6 early, Canberra scored the next 26 points of the match to set up the victory.
In a battle of two of the game’s best junior nurseries, Raiders playmakers Cornish and Jack Ahearn ran riot in the second half. Cornish’s late inclusion allowed Ahearn, who has been deputising at halfback, to return to his preferred fullback spot.
Ahearn didn’t play Penrith in round one, but said the loss was a strong lesson for a Raiders side boasting 10 debutants.
“It showed the level they need to step up to each week in this competition,” Ahearn said.
“Fullback’s my preferred position and I’ve played with Mitch for about five years, but wherever the team needs me I’ll play.”
Ahearn said the side was desperate to avenge last year’s heavy grand final loss to the Tigers at Campbelltown next week.
“They embarrassed us last year, we’re dying to play that game next week,” he said.
AT A GLANCE
CANBERRA RAIDERS 32 (Jack Ahearn, Luke Bateman, Jono Kent, Jack Creith, Tahakilu Pangai tries; Mitch Cornish 6 goals) bt PENRITH PANTHERS 18 (Mitch Clarke, Waqa Blake, Josh Tangitau tries; Dallin Watene Zelezniak 3 goals) at Canberra Stadium on Saturday.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.