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Wests Tigers complete pre-season with big win over Raiders

Wests Tigers have comprehensively beaten the Canberra Raiders 36-4 in the final Pre-season Challenge hit-out before Round 1 at Belmore Sportsground on Sunday. 

Tries to Asu Kepaoa and Charlie Staines extended a 10-4 half-time lead early in the second half before another three tries followed against a Raiders outfit that conceded seven unanswered and struggled to get going in the heat in Sydney. 

After losing Xavier Savage to a broken jaw last week, Raiders coach Ricky Stuart tinkered with his fullback option with Seb Kris starting in the role in a move that shifted Jordan Rapana to the wing and Harley Smith-Shields to the centres. 

Rapana was placed on report and sin-binned during the match for two separate head high shots in incidents that could place him in doubt for Round 1 if cited.

The Raiders crossed first through a piece of brilliance via Nick Cotric, who ran down the sideline before kicking the ball back into Danny Levi to collect for a 4-0 lead, but it was all the Wests Tigers from there. 

After ranking 15th defensively last season, Wests Tigers muscled up in defence throughout the game in a promising improvement for Tim Sheens ahead of the competition's kick-off next month. 

The joint venture hit back with two tries in eight minutes through Junior Tupou and Tommy Talau to set up a 10-4 lead at the break. 

Naden flick pass sets up Tupou

A long-range try to Kepaoa and slick finish from Staines pushed the lead out before Nofoaluma pounced on an error in-goal from Elijah Anderson. 

With over 10 offloads for the match, Wests Tigers extended their lead before full-time with a side-to-side effort sending Tupou over the line for a double.

Match snapshot

  • The Raiders scored first before conceding 36 unanswered points.
  • The match was played in quarters due to the humid conditions at Belmore Sports Ground. 
  • Ken Maumalo suffered a knee injury in the early stages of the match and did not return. 
  • Raiders winger Jordan Rapana was placed on report in the 10th minute for a high shot on Asu Kepaoa and later sin-binned in the 32nd minute for a high shot on Adam Doueihi. 
  • The Raiders completed at 60 per cent and made 41 missed tackles in a concern for coach Ricky Stuart. 
  • Wests Tigers recruits Isaiah Papali'i (60 minutes) and David Klemmer (50 minutes) got through their first games of the season.
  • Charlie Staines never got on the field in the first half in a clear indicator Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens is leaning towards Daine Laurie for the No.1 jersey to start the season.

What they said

"It's a trial in tough conditions, I thought our first 20-30 was pretty strong. We gave away a pretty decent try but other than that I was happy with our defence. We haven't seen anything yet. We got beat by 40 [last week] and won by 40 this week." - Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens.

"There's obviously a lot of learning and improvement needed." - Raiders hooker Danny Levi. 

Levi starts and finishes long range Raiders try

What's next

Wests Tigers will open their 2023 campaign against the Titans at Leichhardt Oval with the likes of Api Koroisau, Luke Brooks and John Bateman expected to come into the line-up after missing the Pre-season Challenge fixtures.

The Raiders will shift their attention to Round 1 with a trip to North Queensland set for the opening weekend in March. 

Acknowledgement of Country

Canberra Raiders respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.