A hat-trick to try-scoring machine Jordan Rapana has propelled the Canberra Raiders to a scintillating 42-16 win over the Gold Coast Titans at Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday evening.
Rapana had completed the trio of tries within 25 minutes, and in bagging his second propelled himself to the top of the 2017 try-scoring tally in clinching his sixth for the year.
While Rapana weaved his magic out wide, man mountain Junior Paulo was monumental for the visitors in the middle of park, churning through 195 metres.
Former Titan Aidan Sezer was another of the Raiders’ best, playing major hands in a number of Canberra’s tries with an adroit range of kicks.
The Raiders drew first blood six minutes into the contest off the back of a forced goal-line dropout.
Rapana capped off a sweeping backline move, receiving the ball from partner-in-crime Joey Leilua on a right-edge overlap before nimble footwork saw the 27-year-old find the white line.
Five minutes later, “Leipana” again revealed its fangs.
A searching Sezer punt found Leilua, the 25-year-old latching onto the kick to put Rapana over for his second.
Faced with an ugly score-line 18 minutes in, the Titans flexed their muscles.
A swift passage of passes resulted in winger Anthony Don exploiting a backpedalling right-edge defence recovering from a length-of-the-field surge against the play.
The visitors did not take long to reassert their dominance on the match, Titans halfback Ashley Taylor coughing up the ball in a desperate Joe Tapine tackle.
Returning from the in-goal a pinpoint Blake Austin grubber, the diminutive playmaker managed to tunnel his way out but was stopped in his tracks a few blades of turf later.
It was off the following set that Rapana bagged his third four-pointer, bustling through a feeble Gold Coast defence to the applause of a scattering of green in the crowd.
Having missed his first two attempts at goal, Croker handed the kicking tee to Sezer who added the extras from the right sideline to make things 14-4.
Moments later, fullback Jack Wighton turned dust into gold when he sliced through a frail left-edge defence.
Sezer showed that he can nail conversions from anywhere on the park when he converted from the left sideline, the score-line reading 20-4.
Things went from bad to worse for the home side when the Green Machine lodged a nomination for Dally M Try of the Year.
A slick show of passes met Rapana’s hands 60 metres out, the hat-trick man tearing down the right wing to put a dinky grubber to boot to fool centre Dale Copley.
Rapana regathered the Steeden and offloaded to Elliott Whitehead in support, before Leilua stamped his 150th NRL appearance in icing the sensational team try.
The Titans’ Karl Lawton burrowed over from dummy-half late in the opening stanza, before the Raiders took a 26-10 lead into the sheds.
Lawton picked up where he had left off, bursting through the Raiders’ defence from long-range to put Taylor under the posts within the first minute of the second half.
But the Raiders then stormed to three unanswered tries to put the game to bed.
Whitehead cleaned up the crumbs of a spilt Sezer kick to cross on the right edge for his second try of the season, before Josh Papalii became the beneficiary of a threaded Josh Hodgson needle.
Canberra had soared to a 36-16 lead, but Ricky Stuart’s men were not done yet.
Booming youngster Nic Cotric won the game for the men in green last week, and rubbed salt into gaping Gold Coast wounds tonight when he crossed for the Raiders’ eighth try of the game.
The Raiders are now set to host the New Zealand Warriors at 5:30pm next Saturday as they chase their third win on the trot.