Xavier Savage made his first big mark as a legal NRL player as the Canberra fullback helped his side overcome a Jack Wighton injury and beat Cronulla 34-18.
Just a month after being handed his debut as an illegal 18th man, Savage starred for the Raiders as he claimed his maiden try in just his second official game.
With Wighton forced from the field on the 60-minute mark after suffering an accidental Sione Katoa boot to the ribs, Canberra surged home for the crucial win.
Savage finished the game with seven tackle busts, as the Raiders fullback also broke the line once in the lead up to one Wighton try and totalled 234 metres.
With his family from Cairns watching on, the former junior state sprint champion also played with a shoulder injury late.
“His biggest credit on the night was that he played on with injury. That’s where he got a big tick of approval,” coach Ricky Stuart said.
“A lot of players can’t play with duress like that, he did an outstanding job in handling that pain.”
“You can’t coach speed. He’s still got a lot to learn about the game, but he’s a very coachable young man.
“He just showed that he keeps his head down and keeps committed to the hard work he has a future ahead of him.”
Corey Harawira-Naera was also brilliant in the second row, as he and Savage tormented Cronulla’s lacklustre edge defence on the Gold Coast.
It helped marked the Raiders’ first back-to-back wins since round one and two, as they crept into ninth on the ladder and only behind the Sharks on for-and-against.
The match wasn’t without drama though, after Canberra’s first try became an eight-pointer when Braydon Trindall clipped Jordan Rapana’s chin after a Harawira-Naera offload in the lead up.
The contact was hardly forceful, but Cronulla coach Josh Hannay conceded after the call was fine.
Another tough penalty went against the Sharks on halftime when Canberra were able to level the scores following a kick contest.
And the Raiders final go-ahead try in the second half came in the set after Jesse Ramien was pinged for a shoulder charge with what appeared a front-on hit on Rapana.
But still the Sharks could only blame themselves.
They missed a whopping 49 tackles and completed at 76 per cent, struggling to get any ball in good territory early.
Johnson was the worst offender, missing seven tackles while also having next to no impact in attack.
“We were way off the mark,” Hannay said.
“We were in the game but didn’t deserve to be.
“We had enough players out there putting in enough effort.
“But we we had too many that weren’t putting in enough for us to be realistic chance of winning.”