For the second week in a row the Canberra Raiders have relinquished a first half lead, this time to the West Tigers, ultimately going down 20-18 in front of 8,704 fans at GIO Stadium on Monday night.
The Green Machine controlled much of the match, however a couple long range tries from the Tigers youngsters managed to get Wests over the line.
The side will be annoyed at their below par performance in the second half and have now made it hard for themselves to get back into the top eight with only four rounds left for the season.
With their semi-finals aspirations on the line and just two four points outside of the top eight, the Raiders came out firing conceding managing a 12-4 lead at half-time thanks to some Shannon Boyd heroics.
Alas, a lack of composure in attack, ill-discipline and crucial missed tackles in defence on the edges marred their second half performance.
With both the Raiders and Tigers having attacking raids at both ends of the field, strong defence was on display for the first 13 minutes of the match.
However a penalty conceded from Canberra allowed Wests to score the first points of the night with the resulting attacking field position.
The Tigers moved the ball out to the right side attack, then back across field to the left where Sauaso Sue managed to beat the cover defence as he dove over the try line. The usually dead-eye shooter in Pat Richards missed the relatively easy conversion and the Tigers took the early lead 4-0.
After several penalties conceded by Wests, the weight of possession proved too much for the Tigers, and Boyd managed to get the ball down whilst being tackled by three players to get Canberra even. Captain Croker converted and the Raiders hit the front 6-4 after 29 minutes.
Canberra continued to excite the crowd with their attacking flair, and with the weight of attacking field position they managed to score a second try just before half-time.
The Raiders took the tap just 10 metres out and handed it to the hard running Boyd who again barged his way over to score his second try of the half under the uprights. Croker’s conversion took the score to 12-4 and that’s the way it stayed until half-time.
Despite the Raiders having the majority of field position it was Wests that were first to score in the second half.
As the ball was marked in the Tigers in goal area, centre Tim Simona quickly ran the ball out to the 20 to then pass to a number of supporting runners. The ball ultimately found James Tedesco who then used his speed to run the length of the field so score a devastating length of the field try.
Richards again missed the conversion as he hit the right goal post, and the Raiders remained in front 12-8 after 50 minutes.
Canberra continued to pile on the pressure to try to wrestle back momentum, and a precise kicking game from Sam Williams and strong defence kept the Tigers inside their own half. The Tigers began to look tired and the Green Machine was looking to pounce at the opportunity of more points.
Unfortunately for the Canberra faithful, the Raiders failed to capitalise on any opportunity that presented itself and it was the Tigers that were next to score points as they hit the front for the first time in the match.
A penalty gave Wests an easy way out of their own half and as the play developed they spotted an overlap on their left attack and Richards took advantage to run in a try untouched. Richards slotted his conversion and the Tigers led 14-12 with 16 minutes remaining.
Although their lead didn’t long as Canberra registered a 100 metre try that put them back in front in just a matter of minutes.
Jack Wighton took the ball in his in goal area and burst through a gap in the Tigers defence to run half the length of the field. He then spotted Josh Hodgson on the inside, who gave a sublime short ball off to Croker who scored underneath the posts to regain the lead 18-14.
Just as the Canberra crowd were cheering their length of the field effort the Tigers managed to pull off a long distance try for themselves.
Tedesco again took on the line and managed to create another line break, as Wighton came in for the tackle he offloaded to Luke Brooks who finished off the try to regain the lead 20-18 with 8 minutes remaining.
As the final minute wound down a knock on from 200th milestone man David Shillington sealed the 20-18 loss to the Tigers. In the ensuing scrum, Shillington was sent from the field after an alleged head butt.