The Canberra Raiders gave coach Ricky Stuart the perfect present for his 400th game as a NRL head coach with a gritty 14-6 win against the Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium.
After last week’s loss to the Newcastle Knights Stuart challenged his side to get back to their defensive best and they responded, allowing just the one try in the 80 minutes.
The Tigers crossed first in the 16th minute with Luke Brooks pouncing when Raiders centre Curtis Scott fumbled a Josh Reynolds cross-field kick to give his side a 4-0 lead.
The Tigers had the run of play for much of the first half but Canberra’s solid defence kept it to just 4-0 at half-time.
It was a different story in the second half as the Raiders jumped out of the blocks, with Jack Wighton capitalised on their field position to score a brilliant individual try, edging the Green Machine ahead 4-6.
Wighton was superb all night despite copping some big hits and playing most of the game with a beautiful shiner on his left eye.
Some smart play from Jordan Rapana off a quick tap from a penalty saw Tigers bench forward Russell Packer sin-binned in the 54th minute for being offside.
Canberra then made the most of the one-man advantage. On the next set George Williams put through a perfectly placed kick for Nick Cotric to score in the corner, with Jarrod Croker slotting the conversion to give the Raiders a 4-12 lead.
Moses Mbye kicked a penalty goal in the 59th minute to bring the Tigers back to within one score, but Croker answered with a penalty goal of his own 9 minutes later to restore the Raiders 8-point lead.
The Tigers had a couple of late chances to mount a comeback but the Raiders defence held strong and made sure the coach’s 400th was one to remember.
The match itself was played in a brutally tough manner with both sides having players leave the field following a variety of head knocks and injuries.
For Canberra, Wighton and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad would be feeling sore after multiple collisions throughout the game, while Rapana and Joseph Tapine were both taken off for HIA’s in the second half.
The win makes it four from five now for the Raiders, placing them second on the ladder with tough matches against the Manly Sea Eagles and the Parramatta Eels over the next two weeks.
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