Closer examination is needed of Canberra’s midweek ball skills since the Raiders toed through three kicks for tries in their 28-0 win over the Wests Tigers at Bankwest Stadium on Friday night.
First it was back-rower Elliott Whitehead for his winger Bailey Simonsson to score in the third minute.
Then, Nick Cotric toed one on the fly for his winger Jordan Rapana in the 35th after halfback Aidan Sezer had sent the ball to the right edge with a kick.
And finally, 14 seconds from the half-time hooter John Bateman put boot to ball close to the line and chased it down.
The fact two of those players are Englishmen, where the round-ball game is king, probably is only coincidental.
But it proved the confidence of the Raiders players that if they sense something is on, there will be someone always backing up to finish things off.
The soccer skills show helped the Raiders to an 18-0 half-time lead – something Michael Maguire’s men could not recover from.
And the spark of Cotric and Jack Wighton returning from NSW Origin duties, coupled with more hard work from Queensland prop Josh Papalii, was something Ricky Stuart couldn’t do without.
Match: Wests Tigers v Raiders
Round 13 -
Venue: Bankwest Stadium, Sydney
- Nine Network
- LIVE PASS
A break by Wighton, off an Elliott Whitehead offload in the 64th minute, led to a try to Jarrod Croker in the left corner in the next play.
Something else bringing a smile to Raiders fans was the return of halfback Aidan Sezer. It was only his fourth NRL game this season, due to the good form of Sam Williams, but his kicking game was spot on considering the greasy conditions.
But when he intercepted a Jacob Liddle pass to run 80 metres untouched, the delight on his face said it all. It was his first try in the Telstra Premiership this year.
The Viking clap started up from the fans in the southern stand in response to what the display meant to them. Wighton must have been smiling in the background since it was his pass intercepted by Maroons winger Dane Gagai that sunk the NSW Blues on Wednesday night.
The Wests Tigers had their own "welcome back" story with Chris Lawrence playing his first game of 2019 following severe facial fractures in a training accident in the lead-up to a Warriors trial game in March.
But that was probably their only highlight on Friday night. It was their second visit to the spanking new Bankwest Stadium and they have received just that each time – a 51-6 drubbing by the Eels in round six and then a five-try thumping by the Raiders.
Bateman and Nicoll-Klokstad combine
It was the third time the men from the national capital have held a team scoreless – after the Titans and Eels. But they did it this time without their ruck conductor in hooker Josh Hodgson (broken thumb). Siliva Havili and Tom Starling did magnificent replacement jobs.
But Canberra did get back winger Jordan Rapana back, several weeks early from a knee ligament injury. In his 100th NRL game for the Raiders he also scored a try.
The win put them back in the top four, leap-frogging the Knights, and giving them a shot of confidence as they head home to play the Sharks at GIO Stadium next Thursday.