NRL: Raiders stay alive with win over Sharks

Raiders 34
Cronulla 16

Canberra coach David Furner claims no side is more battle-hardened for the rigours of sudden-death NRL football than his surprising Raiders - who continued their merry tightrope trip into the second week of the finals.

Dead and buried two months ago with not just their season but also Furner's coaching career looking decidedly shaky propositions - the Raiders buried Cronulla 34-16 at Canberra Stadium for their sixth straight win.

They will now play confidence-sapped South Sydney at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night after the Rabbitohs went down to Melbourne in their qualifying final, with North Queensland to meet former premiership favourites Manly in Friday night's other sudden death encounter.

While the Rabbitohs seemed to suffer from a case of stage fright in their 24-6 loss to the Storm, the Raiders lapped up the pressure in their win over the Sharks - Furner admitting pressure was something the side had become used to carrying.

"We've been in this position for six or seven weeks where if we dropped a game we were pretty much out or fighting with other teams,'' Furner said.

"That's what I've liked about the side - again they've risen to the challenge.

"It's sudden-death semi-finals and we've been playing that for six or seven weeks - and that momentum of winning builds confidence in the team.''

The only issue for the Raiders may be finding a replacement goalkicker if the season's leading pointscorer Jarrod Croker (concussion) is unavailable - after Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson missed all four of their attempts in the centre's absence late in the win over Cronulla.

The Rabbitohs will have to find a replacement for Matt King after he suffered a suspected broken arm, but of greater concern could be finding a cure for the stuttering, ill-disciplined display against the Storm.

The Cowboys have no such worries as they head to Sydney on the back of a 33-16 thumping of Brisbane in Saturday night's elimination final.

It is a rematch of their finals battle from a year ago when the Cowboys suffered a second half meltdown against the Sea Eagles, when they conceded 42 points in the final 32 minutes to lose 42-16.

But with Manly sweating on the availability of Jamie Lyon and Joe Galuvao (both calf injuries) as well as Jason King and Steve Matai (both on report for high tackles), it's a case of the shoe being on the other foot for the Cowboys.

"We limped into the finals last year, only one of our last four games we won and Johnathan (Thurston) had come back from a knee injury ... Brent Tate had only started playing footy in round 18, he hadn't had a lot of confidence and Matt Scott was under duress (with) a back problem,'' coach Neil Henry told ABC radio.

"We're in much better shape this year.

"We're healthy, we've been able to keep the same squad together for six or seven weeks and we've been able to have some good wins away from home as well in that time. Those sort of things put us in a good stead mentally for a trip down to Sydney.''

- AAP

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