CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA – JUNE 15: Josh Papalii of the Raiders is tackled during the round 14 NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the Penrtih Panthers at Canberra Stadium on June 15, 2013 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images) Photo: Stefan Postles SportRaiders player josh mccrone in action during the game against Penrith at Canberra stadium.The Canberra times15 June 2013Photo jay cronanDQoNCg0KSmF5IMG_2329.jpg Photo: [email protected]杭州夜生活m
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Raiders half Josh McCrone scores a try in the first half. Photo: Jay Cronan

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA – JUNE 15: Paul Vaughan of the Raiders fends off a tackle during the round 14 NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the Penrtih Panthers at Canberra Stadium on June 15, 2013 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images) Photo: Stefan Postles

How it unfolded/match stats

ARE THE Canberra Raiders the major threat to the top four?

Andrew Johns, Peter Sterling and Phil Gould all think so, and the NRL’s heavyweights may start looking nervously over their shoulders after their 24-12 win over Penrith at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night.

Sure, it was a win against an understrength Panthers side at home, where they are a perfect six from six this season.

But the stars seem to be aligning for the Raiders, who have long been one of the competition’s most frustrating enigmas.

The respected Channel Nine commentators used their media commitments to proclaim the Raiders as the biggest danger to the top four.

They have already beaten Melbourne on the road, the Roosters at home and gave Manly an almighty scare at Fortress Brookvale in round 11.

Now they are just a point behind the fourth-placed Sea Eagles and hopes are building that this isn’t another false Raiders dawn.

Star playmaker Terry Campese is beginning to hit his straps after two injury-plagued seasons. Their huge forward pack keeps rolling, setting the platform for their lethal back-line to tear teams apart.

The true test of their credentials perhaps awaits in round 16 against the Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium.

They first must atone for Wests Tigers at Campbelltown next week – and coach David Furner is confident he can shield his young side from the hype.

”The competition is so close, we can’t take our eye off what we need to do,” Furner said.

”We’ve got two on the road the next two weeks. We’ve been in this position before [earlier in the season] and didn’t perform as we would have liked.

”We’re not getting carried away and reading our own press.”

Campese seems to have regained his confidence after two horror years with knee injuries.

For the second straight week he was outstanding, and has rediscovered the dangerous running game that made the Raiders the fairytale team of the 2010 finals.

”Our goal at the start of the year was to build Canberra Stadium back to a fortress, we just have to build our away form,” Campese said.

”I’m still finding my feet a bit, the other guys have been tremendous and I’ve got some improvement left.

”We’ve got the Tigers and then the big one, Souths the following week.”

Long rated an attractive attacking team, the Raiders ground the Panthers into submission with defence.

They missed just a handful of tackles all match, their monstrous pack, led by Dane Tilse and Brett White, dominant.

Canberra took a 6-0 lead after just three minutes when NSW centre Blake Ferguson outleapt Penrith’s Travis Robinson to snatch a Campese high kick.

In the 15th minute Robinson dropped another Campese bomb, allowing identical twin Reece to double the Raiders lead in their first NRL game against each other.

But Penrith hit back in the 29th minute when winger David Simmons finished off some fine lead-up work from Luke Walsh and Matt Moylan. However, the Raiders were up 18-6 at the break after the hosts were the beneficiaries of a huge slice of luck just before half-time. Halfback Josh McCrone threw a pass straight into Josh Papalii’s head before the McCrone swooped on the ricochet and scored under the posts.

A Paul Vaughan second-half try sealed the result for the Raiders, before Simmons grabbed a late consolation try with his second four-pointer.

Penrith’s loss was compounded by an early sternum injury to prop Mose Masoe, while Josh Mansour (eye socket) didn’t play any part in the second half.

CANBERRA RAIDERS 24 (Blake Ferguson, Reece Robinson, Josh McCrone, Paul Vaughan tries; Jarrod Croker 4 goals) bt PENRITH PANTHERS 12 (David Simmons 2 tries; Luke Walsh 2 goals) at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.