Austin- tacious win
LAURIE Daley made it clear he planned to start working on the 2016 NSW Origin campaign immediately.
So it was a good thing Loz got the chance last night to watch Blake Austin in a rare free- to- air TV game help orchestrate Canberra’s 36- 22 hammering of Newcastle.
The Raiders were playing just their second live game on Channel 9 for the season – it was their first Friday night fixture at home – and Austin sure put on a show for the audience tuned in at home.
The 6015 locals who braved the bitter cold were also appreciative.
The blond, bearded playmaker, who could easily pass for an extra on US biker drama Sons Of Anarchy, racked up three tries in the opening 15 minutes.
Austin’s first came at the end of Canberra’s first set as they spread the ball right and raced down field, with winger Jordan Rapana’s final pass hitting the No. 6 on the chest.
In the ninth minute, Austin showed some lovely footwork to step Kurt Gidley and double the lead.
Austin then brought up the hat- trick when he produced a serious turn of foot over 15m to burst through three lazy Knights’ defenders and win the race for a Sam Williams’ grubber.
Austin, 24, was also awesome in defence – he produced some decent hits on his own goal- line towards the back end of the first half – and his 70m dropout ended any hope of Newcastle trying to make the scoreboard more respectable just before the break.
Rated an outside chance at best for a Blues’ call- up this year, Austin did his chances no harm when he scored a hat- trick during the City-Country fixture.
If he can lead the Raiders to the finals this season – they are now just one win outside the eight, and have an even better attack than competition frontrunners Brisbane – Blues’ coach Daley is sure to pay him a new- found respect.
Raiders’ coach Ricky Stuart will know his side will challenge for September if Austin fires. Queensland forward Josh Papalii, the Raiders’ only Origin representative, is also in good nick, and bagged his own double last night.
Austin might have to take on some extra responsibility after halfback Sam Williams left the field midway through the second half with a suspected shoulder injury.
Newcastle did have plenty of possession, but it wasn’t a pretty sight for Stuart who called the shots all night from the sideline.
For the Knights, their season focus will be on avoiding the wooden spoon. They will finish the weekend officially last behind the Wests Tigers.
ON TARGET: Raiders’ Blake Austin scores in the 36- 22 win over the Knights at GIO Stadium in Canberra last night.