Canberra continued their recent good form, with a seventh win in their last eight games after holding off a spirited Wests Tigers comeback 20-19 in Campbelltown on Friday night.
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A moment of magic from Raiders halfback Jamal Fogarty opened the scoring in the sixth minute as he put in a grubber kick for himself close to the line that bounced into the posts, then he was first on the scene for the rebound, put in a second grubber, and won the race to the ball. Fogarty wrapped it all up with the conversion and Canberra led 6-0. The opportunity came on the back of a penalty and failed Captain’s Challenge.
The Tigers should have levelled the game after 15 minutes when fullback Jahream Bula put Fonua Pole in the clear but was stopped close to the line and lost the ball after a sensational cover tackle by Matthew Timoko.
A brilliant Jack Wighton 40-20 and penalties in good territory gave Canberra a few chances in the next section of the game to extend their lead, but errors close to the line were killing their momentum. Same for the the Wests Tigers too, who blew good chances close to the line through errors.
Canberra eventually took a chance seven minutes before half-time as the Tigers spilled a Fogarty bomb in front of the posts and Jordan Rapana was on hand for the bounce and dived over to score his 100th NRL try. The easy conversion nudged the score to 12-0, which was the half-time lead. It continued the Tigers’ poor first half record in 2023, winning just two first halves in 12 matches and the third time they had been kept scoreless in the first half.
The Wests Tigers had a great opportunity to put points in the first minutes of the second half, with a good attacking set close to the line, but again a pass went astray. Zac Woolford was put on report for a dangerous tackle in a preceding Tigers set.
Canberra punished them minutes later as Fogarty replicated his first try with a grubber at the goal posts, and again Fogarty was first on the scene for the rebound and the easy try. Another conversion made it 18-0, all without a single line break to that point.
The next 20 minutes saw the Wests Tigers on top more than not, and had more opportunities to get on the scoreboard, but errors continued to hamper their efforts. But they were given a leg up with 12 minutes to go when Tom Starling was sin binned for drawing the short straw and conceding the penalty that broke the referee’s patience.
It didn’t take long for the Tigers to take advantage when a determined Tommy Talau run and pass ended with Bula scoring the try next to the posts. This brought the score back to 18-6 and the Tigers had eight more minutes of a one-man advantage.
A Luke Brooks line break in the very next set set up the Tigers’ second try in quick succession. A few plays later John Bateman scored and narrowed the gap to just six points – and there was still plenty of time.
The Wests Tigers levelled the game with a third try in four minutes as Brandon Wakeham chipped for himself close to the line, regathered, and slid over. Scarcely believable, but all of a sudden it was 18-18 and the Raiders still had five more minutes to halt the scoring.
Minutes later, and still with the one-man advantage, Brooks nailed a wobbly field goal to edge the Tigers in front 19-18.
Fogarty attempted a field goal with the Raiders’ first attacking set since the sin binning, and while the field goal missed, a charging Isaiah Papali’I didn’t miss as he dived at the legs of Fogarty and made contact. An easy penalty 20 metres in front of the posts saw the Raiders reclaim the lead.
The Tigers had one more crack at stealing the game in the final seconds of the match on Canberra’s line, but the Raiders scrambled well, and eventually Brooks’ second field goal attempt was well off the mark. But it was an exciting last 15 minutes.
For the Raiders it was a sixth straight win over the Wests Tigers and a 10th win in the last 11 matches, and a seventh win in eight games in 2023. They sit in the top eight of the NRL ladder.
The Wests Tigers’ poor run at Campbelltown continues with a seventh straight loss at the ground and an 11th loss in the 14 games they have played there on a Friday.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR POINTSEmbed from Getty Images
3 – Jamal Fogarty (Raiders)
2 – Luke Brooks (Tigers)
1 – Matthew Timoko (Raiders)