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Wests Tigers 34 def Canberra Raiders 26

A GREAT game of footy played at high pace entertained a big, vocal and “into it” crowd at Campbelltown Stadium, with the Wests Tigers running out winners in a game that could’ve gone either way. A spectacular, cracking game between evenly matched teams.

It was a game of two halves for the Tigers who gave away too many penalties in the first half but enjoyed a mountain of possession in the second. While there was a lot to like about their play, they had a bit of luck, it must be said. Still, they took their chances and turned on some fine footy.

The Raiders didn’t too much wrong. They’ve again fielded an under-rated and “no name” pack but again they’ll win their fair share of games this year and will trouble better teams than Wests Tigers. They do the basics very well, they don’t give up and in Terry Campese they have a game-breaker. A real smokey.

The Game Swung When…. In the 72nd minute, with the Raiders down by two, Terry Campese chipped for flying winger Phil Graham in the middle of the park. Graham streamed through and got there first but the ball didn’t bounce for him. It rebounded off his knee, straight at Tim Moltzen. Then it got weird. The ball bounced off Moltzen’s knee, bounced off Campese’s knee and bounced straight into Moltzen’s arms who ran around the defence and went 70 metres downfield to score under the posts. It was that sort of game.

Who Was Hot… Big debutant Pommy Gareth Ellis put a couple of big hits on and made his presence felt in the middle of the ruck. There are big raps on this bloke – and they don’t look misplaced. Taniela Tuiaki was dangerous down the left flank, scored two tries, one of which he was “tackled” three times but still went over. Daine Laurie came on in the 25th minute and charged up the field like a giant Clydesdale running in the Golden Slipper. A big hard-charging crowd favourite in the Paul Sironen and Gorden Tallis mould. And their workhorse forward Chris Heighington – 24 tackles, 16 runs for 102 metres – kept on keeping on all game.

The Raiders’ best was Terry Campese who kicked well, ran like he had spiders on him and set up three tries. Can run, pass and kick – like a good five-eighth can. Winger Justin Carney has a little of Matt Utai about him and had a fine game with two tries and a host of powerful little charges. Wasn’t outshone by powerhouse winger Tuiaki. And while there isn’t much of Trevor Thurling, what there is carts the pill up with determination and penetration.

Who Was Not… Benji Marshall dropped ball, passed into touch and twice kicked out on the full. Mostly had a shocker, Benji.

Hard to find fault with the Raiders though they gifted too much second-half possession to the Tigers, and in the context of the game, Joel Monaghan’s drop in-goal was costly. Their right-side defence could use some starch – but then it was Tuiaki’s wing, and he’s run through everyone.

Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… Apart from When The Game Swung? The speed of David Milne! After taking the ball following a Bronson Harrison bust, the Raiders fullback tore through the Tigers’ defence like a speedboat through surf, going around Marshall and crashing over under the posts. Marshall did well to turn and run him down but the fullback had poured on too much gas. Great try.

Bad Boys… Glenn Turner drove his head into the face of Gareth Ellis. Bryce Gibbs later did the same to Turner. Both might get a call from the match review committee. Otherwise, a fine game played at high pace.

Ref Watch… Jared Maxwell, Gerard Sutton and their assistants did a very good job. Some contention over whether Tuiaki was held for his second try but it’s hard to see whether the video referee would have thought Justin Carney’s hand resting on Tuiaki’s calf constituted a tackle. Best & Fairest… 3 points – Taniela Tuiaki (Wests Tigers): The difference between the teams – 12 hard charges, 7 tackle breaks, 125 metres and 2 tries; 2 points – Terry Campese (Raiders): Looked dangerous with every touch. Will press for Origin. 1 point – Gareth Ellis (Wests Tigers): A big game from a big Englishman who’s going to be a star of the NRL.

Tigers 34 (T Tuiaki 2, R Farah, T Payten, C Lawrence, T Moltzen tries; B Marshall 5 goals) def Raiders 26 (J Carney 2 A Purtell D Milne tries; T Campese 5 goals) at Campbelltown Stadium. Crowd: 17,392.

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National Rugby League respects and honours 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.

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