Canberra entered the game vying for a coveted top-four spot, while Canterbury entered the game vying to avoid the club’s sixth wooden spoon.
A dominant first-half display from the Bulldogs, where they had 61% of the territory, left them sitting pretty with a 20-12 lead at the interim.
Two Raiders tries in three minutes had Canberra in the box seat momentarily, but they shot themselves in the foot with an underwhelming 60% first-half completion rate.
The tides turned quickly with half-time looming, Canterbury cashing in late to pile on the pain and leave a shock upset on the cards.
Lachlan Lewis gifted Dallin Watene-Zelezniak the opening try with a spectacular harbour bridge pass that had to be seen to be believed, the points credited to a great Bulldogs defensive push.
The Raiders didn’t waste time returning serve through Joseph Tapine, who muscled his way past four Bulldogs and the goalpost to level things up.
Tom Starling completed Canberra’s quick turnaround. What was a six-point deficit now a six-point lead courtesy of Will Hopoate’s high-ball fumble.
A 29th minute Raymond Faitala-Mariner’s try kickstarted Canterbury’s late resurgence.
Josh Jackson reclaimed the Bulldogs’ lead after a successful kick-chase from Kerrod Holland kept the ball alive, and Jackson slipped through the Raiders line to infiltrate their in-goal.
Holland had his fingerprints all over a nomadic after-the-siren try, closing out the first half. Holland got the ball he gave from Watene-Zelezniak, and when a path to the in-goal refused to reveal itself, he stabbed in a grubber of his own and chased it down to complete a worthy application for try of the year.
Holland produces some magic
The first and second half were two starkly different games. Canterbury was a forced to be reckoned with early, but found themselves replaced by a lethargic outfit that didn’t register a second half point.
With Tom Starling in the bin and Curtis Scott off the field injured, Canberra rallied in the face of adversity as only Canberra do.
The Raiders went from 39% first-half territory to 67% in the second half. They also improved their completion rate by more than 20%, whilst the Bulldogs’ suffered an 18% decrease.
The Bulldogs’ defence was no match for Wighton’s fast and fancy feet, which left the sides separated by two points.
Wighton added his second within minutes, working his magic close to the line and stiff-arming a helpless Lewis.
Wighton's become accustomed to sparking when he's needed most
The Raiders completed their second half treble when Hudson Young bounced out of a tackle and burrowed his way to the stripe.
Already with three tries on the bounce, Canberra were merciless. Tom Starling exploding out of dummy half to earn his maiden double and put the result beyond doubt.
15th was in their grasp, but the Bulldogs let slip not only a monumental upset but an opportunity to lift themselves out of their dreaded last position.
Josh Papalii was herculean for the Raiders, running 222 metres off the bench from just 57 minutes game time. Tom Starling was a key contributor with two tries, and Jack Wighton was the desired spark he so often is, picking up his third double of the season and second in as many weeks.
Canberra are fast becoming a second half team, making a habit of turning slow starts into big wins. Only points differential is keeping them from a coveted top four berth, and next week’s grand final rematch with the fourth placed Roosters looms as a do or die for their second chance hopes come finals time.