Raiders off the mark with thriller win against Sharks

Canberra coach Ricky Stuart says only high-level resilience was able to drag his side to a vital, nail-biting 24-20 win against Cronulla to earn their first victory of the NRL season.

Missing star prop Josh Papali'i, Xavier Savage and wingers Nick Cotric and Jordan Rapana, the Raiders lost hooker Danny Levi to a suspected broken jaw just minutes into Sunday's match but didn't let that stop them taking the thrilling victory.

They had to desperately dig in late, clinging to the win via their goal-line defence when the Sharks found back-to-back tries to race back from a 24-10 deficit and fall just short.

It was the win the Raiders desperately needed, having been unlucky to lose their two opening matches of the year on their two-game tour of Queensland.

After winning ugly with their host of key players missing, Stuart said the side's character couldn't be questioned.

"We didn't ice a few moments the last couple of weeks, been unlucky with a few things ... we could have been winners in one or two games," Stuart said.

"It's very easy to call your football team a resilient group of people when you're winning games and it's all a rosy, beautiful environment.

"We're going through a really tough period after a good off-season, but we've got a good football team, and when you're not getting that win, you can get a little bit downhearted, or lack belief and confidence.

"All our fans that showed up, 14,000 that showed up at 6pm on a Sunday night in 35 degrees ... we showed every one of them how resilient that football team is."

Their hero was Corey Horsburgh, the bench prop scoring two tries and doubling his 63-game career tally in the process with a pair of devastating runs Cronulla had minimal chance of stopping.

In remarkable scenes, Horsburgh was punched by Sharks enforcer Royce Hunt in the backfield but got up and scored with the next play.

But Cronulla coach Craig Fitzgibbon questioned why a penalty wasn't awarded against Horsburgh when he pushed Hunt over following a scrum before Hunt retaliated and was subsequently sin-binned.

"You can't do that, you can't hold someone back from a scrum, just push them over and get away scot-free, we lose Royce for 10 minutes," he said.

"It should have been picked up before Royce retaliated; he shouldn't have retaliated like that, especially not while we were defending our goal line."

Without Dally M-winning halfback Nicho Hynes (calf), Cronulla benefited from a sharp attacking display from dynamic winger Ronaldo Mulitalo, who created the game's opening try with magical footwork before scoring one courtesy of Will Kennedy's delicate kick.

They rallied late with tries for Jesse Ramien and Briton Nikora, with deputy halfback Braydon Trindall creating two tries and kicking a 40-20 in another assured outing.

Canberra bench hooker Tom Starling played nearly 80 minutes after Levi's early injury and turned in a quality display, finding two try assists and steering Canberra around the park with class.

The loss leaves Cronulla 1-2, although they won't be panicking, particularly with Hynes expected back as soon as next Sunday's clash with the Warriors.