Raiders v Titans: Five key points

Canberra put 10 tries past Gold Coast in their Round 9 Telstra Premiership clash. Here are five key points from the Raiders' thrashing of the Titans.

Austin pushes Origin claim 

Blake Austin's incredible 2015 season just keeps getting better. He was at his mesmerising best against Gold Coast, stepping off his dynamic left foot to make two clean try-scoring breaks.

Just one week after scoring a hat-trick in the Country-City fixture, Austin also defended well, most notably with a brilliant cover tackle to deny the Titans a certain try in the 62nd minute.

Despite being well and truly off the radar just two weeks ago, the Raiders five-eighth is now firming as a NSW Blues bolter with his sublime form.

After the game it seemed he had more admirers in the opposition team than his own.

"He's a runner and he's strong, he's quite quick and he supports the ball," Titans coach Neil Henry said.

"He can be a handful if you show him some space and we certainly gave him some opportunities today. We're just disappointed in how we let Blake Austin (through), you can talk about his step all you like… but he still went through us.

"We handled him in the back end of the game… but that needed to happen right at the start."

Meanwhile Raiders coach Ricky Stuart did his best to extinguish Origin interest in Austin.

"We're not looking at rep selection were just worrying about him playing for the Raiders and keeping a little bit of stability in his game," Stuart said.

"He's just doing his job for us… we wont be talking about rep football with our players."

Titans will continue to miss Bird's aggression

The Titans sorely missed Greg Bird against the Raiders, and they will continue to do so in his absence. 

The suspended Origin star wouldn't have been able to do enough to arrest the 40-point deficit his team eventually fell to, but there were enough signs on Saturday to show that the Titans may struggle against big, aggressive forward packs in upcoming weeks.

Bird has been a constant presence of toughness and aggression in the middle of the field at his time in the Titans, a presence his teammates couldn't manage to cover for.

After the match Neil Henry touched on the controversial policy that has star players suspended whilst playing representative football missing out on Telstra Premiership matches for their clubs.

"We can't do anything about it," Henry said.

"It is a bit of a grey area around if you get suspended representing your country or playing State of Origin, but he had a loading regardless. We just need to cope with that, he could have been out eight weeks with an injury. 

"We're fairly healthy as a squad at the moment, we're just missing Greg and it so that's not an excuse for that performance. We're very disappointed… we need to do some soul searching this week and turn up next week."

The Raiders' 2015 purchases shaping as NRL's best buys

Following the announcement of Anthony Milford's departure in 2014, Ricky Stuart and the Raiders mounted an aggressive recruitment drive.

They hotly pursued big names like Kevin Proctor, James Tedesco and Michael Ennis with little luck, and in turn they were widely written-off for season 2015.

In the end Stuart seemingly settled for a bunch of solid purchases, with names like Sisa Waqa, Sam Williams, Frank-Paul Nu'uausala, Josh Hodgson, Sia Soliola and Blake Austin agreeing to ply their trade in the nation's capital. 

But against the Titans the 2105 Raiders proved that they are much more than just a solid bunch of recruits. Each of them were in blistering form, justifying Stuart's eye for a good buy.

With their first home win of the season the Canberra Raiders have confirmed they aren't pretenders in the 2015 NRL season. 

"I think there's been some astute recruitment and it's working," Henry, a former NRL Coach of the Year recipient while coaching the Raiders, said.

"It's about getting some seasoned first graders around the young crop that they have here and they've brought through their development system.

"I think they do a great job with bringing players through - Croker and Wighton those guys are playing good footy."

 

James stands tall for fallen Titans

Against a big Raiders forward pack that have been rolling through their opposition in recent weeks, the pressure fell on Titans hard-man Ryan James to make up for Greg Bird's absence.

James ended up having a strong performance, refusing to take a backward step against some of the Raiders big forwards, especially Frank-Paul Nu'uausala.

Despite some commentators suggesting that James was ill-disciplined and allowed his running battles to take him off focus, his aggression was essential in order to halt the Raiders momentum.

"I don't think he overdid it," Neil Henry said.

"I think he was in a battle there with Frank-Paul, I think it was good footy.

"I don't mind that match up, I thought he was outstanding for us and we need more of it."

Canberra's forward pack are dominating the middle

For a third-straight week, the Raiders forward pack has looked at times unstoppable rolling down the middle of the field.

Big Shannon Boyd refused to be brought down, Frank-Paul Nu'uausala was hard as nails and Paul Vaughan never stopped charging the ball forward.

Without the big names of other packs, the Raiders forwards are all in a similar class and have no loose ends.

A proud man, Titans captain Nate Myles' curt response to questioning on how tough the Raiders forward pack were said a lot.

"Yeah they were good," Myles said flatly.

Raiders captain Jarrod Croker provided a little more insight, saying: "It's good to see 17 blokes on the field all playing well and doing their job."