The Canberra Raiders have suffered a tight 19-18 loss to the Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium, in a match that resembled the 2010 semi-final the two teams played.
On that night Jarrod Croker missed a crucial penalty, and tonight Croker missed a penalty to put the Raiders in front with only minutes remaining in the match.
There was also bad news for the Raiders with Jack Wighton having a heavily strapped hand and not returning after half time. However the match was overshadowed by the broken patella suffered by James Tedesco, who lasted just the first tackle of the game.
Coach Ricky Stuart made some late changes to last week’s side with Queensland Origin forward Josh Papalii making his return from injury. While Kurt Baptiste also came into the side for his first game for the Raiders.
However the big talking point of the game was in the very first tackle when James Tedesco who recently opted out of a deal with the Canberra Raiders had to be assisted from the field after he broke his patella following a clash of knees with Terry Campese.
The Tigers dominated the possession early, but after being forced to defend four sets straight the Raiders were able to survive after Curtis Sironen knocked on when it looked certain he would score.
An accidental offside from the Raiders resulted in the Tigers getting another set. They finally made their possession count when Brooks found David Nofoaluma from a cross-field kick. Pat Richards converted the try to give the Tigers a 6-0 lead after 15 minutes.
Moments later Tim Simona was assisted from the field following a head clash with Jack Wighton.
Canberra looked up for this game and Josh Papalii bounced off Brooks with his first touch back, breaking the line, and setting up Lee’s first NRL try. Croker converted from the sideline to bring scores level after 20 minutes.
Nofoaluma got his double to give the Tigers back the lead, early in the set the referee missed an error in the play the ball by Martin Taupau. Richards missed the conversion leaving the Tigers with a 10-6 lead after 24 minutes.
The game was being played at a hectic pace and Milford was able to brush off three tacklers before giving to Lee.
Lee then chipped around Blake Austin before regathering and scoring his 2nd try. Croker converted the try to give the Raiders a 12-10 lead after 27 minutes. The game then deteriorated off the kick off when Taupau tackled Milford forcing the ball free.
David Shillington then pushed Taupau and players came from everywhere. Replays showed that Taupau looked to have put his knee into Milford which Shillington reacted to. The Tigers got the penalty following Croker being accidently offside from the knock on.
Richards converted the penalty to level the scores after 31 minutes. Richards then took back the lead for the Tigers as he was able to spin and put the ball down in the corner despite close pressure from Lee. He converted the try to give the Tigers an 18-12 lead at half time.
It was a hard fought first half, but the Raiders had heaps of room for improvement following 7 errors to the Tigers 1, and the Tigers enjoying 64% of possession.
Canberra took full advantage of the Tigers reshuffling in their backline with Terry Campese putting Croker through a hole before the Croker scored under the posts. He converted his own try to level the scores at 18 all after 49 minutes.
Canberra weren’t able to make a mountain of possession on the Tigers line count but an error from Chris Lawrence 10 metres out let the Raiders off the hook.
Amazingly the Tigers survived nine sets on their own line from the Raiders, with Canberra unable to take advantage of their massive amount of possession.
The game then became an arm wrestle but Papalii was able to force an error from Austin who gifted the Raiders possession 10 metres out. Luckily for the Tigers it was a poor set from the Raiders with a Campese missed field goal letting the Tigers off the hook.
With the game becoming an arm wrestle Braith Anasta who had been having a quiet night kicked a field goal to give the Tigers a 19-18 lead with nine minutes to go.
Shaun Fensom was tackled without the ball giving the Raiders a penalty 35 out from the Tigers line. They opted to kick the penalty but the kick from Croker was across the face of goal, shades of the famous final the two sides played a few years back.
Canberra weren’t going to die wondering as a short kick from Josh McCrone found Lee on the wing, it looked like the Raiders were going to score but Richards intercepted Lee’s pass back inboard.
They attempted the exact same play on the 2nd tackle of the next set, it proved the wrong option as Richards was again able to gather the ball, and the Tigers were able to hang on for a 19-18 victory.
Once again it was the Raiders inability to score points when it mattered most, with the Tigers surviving 30 straight tackles on their own line.
One positive to come out of the game for the Raiders was a break out performance from Lee who in just his second NRL game managed to score two tries.
The Raiders have the bye next week before travelling to the Gold Coast looking to overturn this poor run of form.
Wests Tigers 19
Tries: Nofoaluma 2, Richards; Richards 3 Goals; Field goal: Anasta
Canberra Raiders 18
Tries: Lee 2, Croker; Croker 3 Goals