‘I can’t tell you the truth’: Stuart bites his tongue after costly call

A contentious forward pass robbed Canberra of one of their bravest victories – and Ricky Stuart was not happy.

The Raiders led 25-6 at half-time before they were run down 34-31 by the New Zealand Warriors in Canberra on Saturday.

Match-saver: Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck knocks the ball out of Jordan Rapana’s hands in the final seconds.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

There will be debate about whether the Warriors should have got so close given just after the hour Ben Murdoch-Masila scored from a forward pass.

Kodi Nikorima’s ball back inside floated high and forward, and Murdoch-Masila had to reach out for the ball.

What made it look worse was referee Henry Perenara was directly in line with the play, but quickly gave the try.

Raiders coach Stuart was stunned during the game, and let it be known he did not want to risk any fine by revealing his real thoughts about the game afterwards. If any fine money was going to his charity, the Ricky Stuart Foundation, the coach said he would have happily elaborated.

He spoke for 90 seconds before storming out.

“In all my years of coaching, be it 18, 19 or 20 years, I’ve never been involved in a greater team performance,” Stuart said.

“We only had one player left on the interchange bench, but I’ve never seen a group of individuals play so well yet play to such adversity.

“I know it is in us, but I learned [today] it is more in us.

“I have a winning team in there. We didn’t get the points, but I know what change-room I’d prefer to be in, and that’s in my change-room.

“I only come in here because it’s my job, I respect the fact you [the media] have a job, but I have $20,000 hanging over my head. If I don’t turn up in here tonight I get fined.

“If all the fine money was going to the Ricky Stuart Foundation I’d tell you the truth today. If I get fined, [at least] I know the money is going to the best cause I know of.

“I can’t tell you the truth and can’t tell you the way the game panned out because I’ll get fined. I won’t answer any questions. I’ve done my job. Thanks.”

The Raiders raced to a 25-6 lead and could only hope it was going to be a big enough advantage to defend. They were entitled to tire given the lack of troops, with Tom Starling the only fresh legs on the bench.

The Warriors deserved credit for clawing their own way back into the game. Skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck scored a try and denied Jordan Rapana what would have been the winning try with just seconds on the clock.

Aside from the obvious injuries, returning Canberra co-captain Jarrod Croker also needed a dislocated finger popped back near half-time, while Josh Papalii will be hoping nothing comes of a shoulder charge on Peta Hiku, which was penalised.

The Raiders found themselves trailing at the start of the game when Addin Fonua-Blake crashed over for a try in his 100th game. The front-rower was the last player the locals wanted to score after he mocked them when playing for Manly a couple of years ago. Scott clutched at his back when Fonua-Blake scored.

Tapine then went down, followed by James and Kris.

Canberra kept their composure and got back into the game via Jack Wighton. The five-eighth palmed off Nikorima for a simple four-pointer.

Ryan Sutton barged over from close range to double the lead before quick tries to Sia Soliola and George Williams in the space of a few minutes put up a decent enough lead to defend.

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