Raiders rookie Xavier Savage ran riot in a 34-18 win over the Sharks with exceptional speed and skill, but it was his toughness that most pleased coach Ricky Stuart.
Playing in his second official NRL match after being illegally used as a reserve in round 15, Savage scored the match-sealing try and racked up two line-breaks, 246 metres from 16 carries and nine tackle busts.
Canberra five-eighth Jack Wighton succumbed to a rib injury in the 61st minute but told Fox League that he would be fit to face the Eels next Thursday while Savage battled through a shoulder issue.
The fact that 19-year-old Savage gritted his teeth and stayed on the park, shifting to the wing late in the game, earned Stuart's admiration.
"That was his biggest credit on the night, that he played on with injury," Stuart said post-match at Cbus Super Stadium.
Match: Raiders v Sharks
Round 18 -
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast
"For me, that was where he got a great tick of approval because a lot of players can't play under duress like that. For a young boy who's just out of school, he did a really good job in handling that pain."
He tipped a bright career for Savage, who hails from Cairns.
Canberra have lost two fullbacks to injury with Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad out for the season and Bailey Simonsson (toe) not due back until round 23. But the upside could be an extended period for Savage in the No.1 jersey.
"You can't coach speed. He's still got a lot to learn about the game. He's a very coachable young man," Stuart added.
"He's a credit to his mum and family up north. He's got a wonderful family who support him, as you would have seen on his debut tape.
"He won't get ahead of himself and we won't let him. He did a good job tonight and he just showed that he keeps his head down and he keeps committed to the hard work. He's got a future ahead of him.
"There's a long way to go but he's on the right track."
Savage's starring role helped keep the Raiders in the finals race as they moved level with eighth-placed Cronulla on 16 points.
Back-rower Corey Harawira-Naera returned to his best in a damaging display of tackle-breaking and offloading as he made 143 metres.
And the ex-Kiwi international was instrumental in the opening try for winger Jordan Rapana, bouncing away from multiple defenders before promoting the ball.
A Mulitalo mistake, a selfless act from Kris and Savage gets his first NRL try
A marginally high shot from Sharks five-eighth Braydon Trindall on Rapana, who didn't react at all to the contact after his put-down, led to a controversial eight-point try as Jarrod Croker nailed two conversions.
A penalty goal put Stuart's team further ahead but despite having only 41 percent possession for the first 24 minutes, Cronulla responded when centre Jesse Ramien used power and footwork to find the line from an angled run.
The Sharks then capitalised on a Semi Valemei error to cross out wide through Sione Katoa, with Wighton hurt in his cover tackle.
Croker's third penalty goal on the stroke of half-time locked it up at 12-all before Wighton, who was needled during the break, benefited from slick work by Savage and Tom Starling to score in the 41st minute.
The lead was short-lived, however, as Cronulla's Trindall and Connor Tracey combined to put winger Ronaldo Mulitalo over.
But consistent pressure took its toll on the Sharks and it was all too easy for Canberra when second-rower Hudson Young strolled through a yawning gap from a neat Sam Williams pass.
Savage and Valemei bagged tries to finish the game and give the Raiders a healthy margin, which could come in handy for their points-differential at the end of the season.
Cronulla forward Siosifa Talaika was sin-binned in the 75th minute, all but ensuring his team wouldn't stage a miraculous comeback.
Canberra have now beaten the Sharks in their past six meetings.