For the Tigers, it wasn’t the usual suspects who saved them. With Benji Marshall having an off night and Robbie Farah seemingly hampered by injury and coming off the bench – it was left to Todd Payten who was tradesman like, a rampaging Taniela Tuiaki and the rookie Tim Moltzen to get the locals home.
The Raiders’ plan to keep the ball alive was evident from the first set – the Green Machine throwing the ball out the back at will and frustrating the Tigers early. But after establishing a lead through some quality touchdowns, the Raiders couldn’t recover from 6 consecutive sets of defence as the Wests side came marching home.
For Tuiaki, tries in the 12th and 60th minutes sent the crowd crazy as he left defenders skittled all over the field.
Tuiaki beating 4 defenders in one 30m effort – destroying his opponents and looking very much like Eric Grothe Senior from the mid 80’s as he barnstormed his way to the line.
There was some doubt over whether Tuiaki was ‘held’ but to the credit of officials they immediately gave the benefit of the doubt without referral.
The deciding try came through new custodian Tim Moltzen, the elusive but attacking fullback ensuring the win after collecting a Terry Campese’s chip and going the length of the field to score under the posts. Moltzen having a strong night at the back, showing good positional play and nearly saving a certain try with a valliant strip attempt.
The Tigers looked to be blowing early in the second half, but a Chris Lawrence try after beautiful hands by Chris Heighington and Todd Payten got the home side into gear.
Early on, discipline problems were cruelling the Wests side. Bryce Gibbs in particular was hell bent on giving away penalties and putting massive pressure on his side as they looked to be going down hill quickly.
For the Raiders, it was the one that got away. They were impressive for the most part, a missed catch from star centre Joel Monaghan in the in-goal area probably the turning point. Monaghan had the easy chance to defuse, but fumbled – gifting the Tigers possession from the drop-out and the ensuing raid lasted for 5-6 sets of attack. The wave after wave of attack chewing up all the petrol in the Raiders tank.
Stand-outs for the Raiders, were fullback David Milne who scored a scortching 60m try right on halftime after accepting a nice Bronson Harrison offload. Justin Carney was solid all night and Terry Campese remained a handful for his opponents as he organised and kicked well. In the forwards, new buy David Shillington was impressive and led the way up front.
The other Canberra try came through Adrian Purtell,Â pouncing on a stray ball after Tigers fullback Moltzen stripped Campese when he looked to be scoring a certain try just before half time.
There were 5 lead changes in the high-scoring affair, as both sides would display some magical attacking – then concede a simple error or penalty to let their opponent back in with a sniff.
New Tigers no.7 Marshall seems to still be finding his feet at half, kicking out on the full several times and throwing wayward passes that were grounded. However, the Kiwi star did have a hand in 2 of the teams tries.
Raiders winger Justin Carney scored a double for himself, smartly running off the hip of Campese while Wests skipper Robbie Farah crashed over from short range after coming from the bench on the 20 minute mark.
WESTS TIGERS 34 (T Tuiaki 2 R Farah C Lawrence T Moltzen T Payten tries B Marshall 5 goals) bt CANBERRA 26 (J Carney 2 D Milne A Purtell tries T Campese 5 goals) at Campbelltown Sports Stadium. Referees: J Maxwell, Gerard Sutton. Crowd: 17,392.