Austin- ta­cious win

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - CHRIS­TIAN NICOLUSSI

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.

Pic­ture: KYM SMITH

ON TAR­GET: Raiders’ Blake Austin scores in the 36- 22 win over the Knights at GIO Sta­dium in Can­berra last night.

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