After two missed shots at goal in normal time, Manly’s Dylan Walker redeemed himself to become the hero in Friday night’s thrilling 20-18 golden-point NRL victory over Canberra.
The 22-year-old broke Raiders’ hearts in the first period of extra time, landing a 40m penalty goal which had first struck the right-hand upright.
Sea Eagles coach Trent Barrett hailed Walker as a special player after his decisive kick in front of 15,976 at GIO Stadium.
“He’s born for those sort of moments,” Barrett said.
“There wasn’t a question of him not taking that kick.”
When Jordan Rapana scored a contender for try of the season, the Raiders led 18-14 inside the last 10 minutes of regulation time.
With the ball in the air but close to the deadball line, from a Blake Austin grubber kick, Rapana dived, somehow retrieved the ball and grounded in the corner with only millimetres to play with.
But, unlike Walker in extra time, Canberra skipper Jarrod Croker hit the upright and missed the conversion.
Minutes later, Manly forward Frank Winterstein burst through a hole before setting up fullback Tom Trbojevic for the try to level at 18-18.
But the twists weren’t finished yet.
Walker missed the conversion and a Daly Cherry-Evans field-goal attempt was charged down by Josh Hodgson ensuring the game would go to golden point.
After the Raiders gave away a penalty for stripping, Walker stepped up to spark wild celebrations from the Eagles’ players.
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart said his side were fortunate the match went to golden point after Walker sprayed a conversion and penalty goal attempt in the second half.
“Walker should have kicked those two goals,” Stuart said.
“He’ll kick the next 10 out of 10 from that spot. We just had a leg up in regard to his misses.”
Canberra led 6-2 after a cagey first half, and came out firing in the second stanza.
Josh Papalii broke through Cherry-Evans and Walker tackles to drive over the line for a brilliant try.
Croker converted to extend the lead to 10 points but, in a sign of things to come, the Sea Eagles refused to be beaten.
A lucky deflection allowed Jake Trbojevic to cross for Manly’s first try and, two minutes later, Walker sliced through the Raiders’ line with a superb run to level the scores, before putting his side in front with a sideline conversion.
In a rollercoaster night, he was placed on report in the first half for a head slam on Aidan Sezer, sparking the first of many spotfires during a spirited contest.
Despite the loss, Stuart said he was proud of his team, who have a 4-4 record.
“We played extremely well tonight and we’ll learn some stuff out of that,” Stuart said.
“The scoreline is a disappointment but not the performance or the effort.”
Manly, also 4-4, face South Sydney next Friday, while the Raiders play Canterbury on Saturday (April 29) at ANZ Stadium.