AAP Rugby

Tigers fend off Raiders in NRL thriller

By AAP Newswire

Wests Tigers have put a week of drama behind them to hold off Canberra 22-20 and keep their NRL finals hopes alive.

The Raiders have dominated the Tigers in recent meetings, including a 36-point smashing in June, but the visitors produced a hot start at GIO Stadium and closed out the job.

They managed just one penalty goal in the second half on Sunday afternoon but managed to hold out a Raiders team who came alive after an insipid start.

The result moved the Tigers to within a game of a stumbling Brisbane in eighth on the ladder.

The Tigers responded to a tumultuous few days, in which coach Ivan Cleary was linked with a controversial return to Penrith, by scoring the opening three tries of the contest.

Cleary's side capitalised on Raiders centre Joseph Leilua being sent to the sin bin early to jump out to a 16-0 lead before second-rower Joseph Tapine finally put Canberra on the scoreboard with a try in the 29th minute.

Despite the Tigers being the far better team in the first 40 minutes, they only led 20-10 at the break after Raiders forward Josh Papalii scored just before halftime.

Canberra were a different team in the second half as Leilua and Tapine scored tries within five minutes of each other to reduce the margin to only two points.

But that's where the score stayed as the Tigers bravely defended for the final 15 minutes to secure their 11th win of the season.

"We started the second half well too. We made a couple of breaks and couldn't quite capitalise on those and (the Raiders) played with some freedom from there," Cleary said.

"I thought the boys did really well to hold them out."

Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, 100th gamer Moses Mbye, Michael Chee-Kam and David Nofoaluma scored exceptional tries for the Tigers, while Benji Marshall and Luke Brooks combined perfectly in the halves.

Tapine was comfortably the best player for the Raiders, who lost halfback Aidan Sezer before kick-off.

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart said he was proud of his side despite them losing their fifth game of the year by two points or less.

"You get away to a 16-0 lead like that and for us to hang in there and get back in the game was a big effort," Stuart said.

"It's never anything in doubt with these boys. I know I'm going to get the effort every week, no matter the situation."