Wests Tigers v Raiders: Five key points
The Tigers faltered with a final spot on the line while their opponents, in search of a top two finish, took their chance spectacularly. Here are five talking points from Canberra's 52-10 win over Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday.
Raiders create their own history
The 52-point landslide moved Canberra to 688 points scored in 2016 – a club record, going past the 677 racked up by their all-conquering 1994 outfit.
That side boasted legendary names like Mal Meninga, Laurie Daley, Ruben Wiki, Brett Mullins, Jason Croker, Steve Walters, Brad Clyde, David Furner, Noa Nadruku and current coach Ricky Stuart.
"At the start of the year we spoke about creating our own piece of history," said Stuart, who only learned the record had been broken in the post-match press conference.
"We've had a lot of great players and eras and teams and they at some stage we had to put our hand up and say 'we've got to create our own history' and that was a lot of what we talked about at the start of the season.
"Whatever happens over the next month, five weeks is just an added bonus. They've had a wonderful season."
Blockbusting centre Joey Leilua also only learned of the record after the game when told by NRL.com.
"Oh really? That's the best, I can't believe that happened. He'll be filthy, Sticky!" laughed Leilua.
"That's good. I don't know what to say. It comes down to how much the team wants it and that's what we showed this year. It was tough early.
"There were a couple of games that we were a bit rusty like every other team but once we found form, now 10 in a row so not much I can say, we're playing consistent footy."
A disappointment for the Leichhardt faithful
The fact their team didn't put in the sort of performance they'd have liked can't be chalked up to a lack of support with an absolute capacity crowd of 18,634 packed the Wayne Pearce Hill to capacity.
The fact the team didn't give the fans the sort of display they were hoping for was almost as big a disappointment as the loss itself.
"The fans have been awesome for us all year so for them to turn up a crowd like that after what we went through early on in the year [is disappointing]," said Tigers captain Aaron Woods.
"We've probably got one of the best sets of fans but the performance we put on out there for them today was quite frustrating but I can't thank them enough for getting out there today at Leichhardt."
Retiring veteran Dene Halatau was pleased to go out in front of his favourite crowd but equally disappointed with the result those fans had to witness.
"It's my favourite place to play, Sunday arvos at Leichhardt Oval," Halatau told NRL.com.
"It's where I started and it's where I finish. It was an awesome crowd and an awesome build up. The excitement was there but obviously the disappointment of the result overrides that a bit but it's done now, we can't really change it."
Wighton shouldn't have a case to answer: Stuart
Canberra's coach and players hoped a late hit from Jack Wighton on a runaway Joel Edwards wouldn't see the latter cited or suspended for a shoulder charge.
They compared it to a similar shot from Michael Ennis earlier in the weekend that didn't draw a charge.
Asked if he was worried, Stuart deadpanned: "Not after I heard Michael Ennis got off."
However he was glad Ennis wasn't charged, which he said was a victory for common sense – even though an Ennis suspension would have hugely improved Canberra's chances next week when they host the Sharks.
"I'm glad Mick got off. There's not enough approach from a common sense point of view in a number of these types of collisions. I could see what Michael was trying to do… Jack said his head hit Edwards but I haven't seen the replay. But I'm not concerned about Jack Wighton's situation."
Added captain Jarrod Croker: "I thought it was a head clash, he said it was a head clash. I thought he had his hands up. [On-field referee] Jarrod Maxwell actually agreed it does look a lot worse, both players running at full speed, I'm sure Jack will be fine."
Moses continues to make huge strides
Young Tigers playmaker Mitch Moses was again one of his team's best, though he had a few moments particularly in defence he'd like over.
While he twice got shown up on that Tigers' right edge as Josh Papalii strolled over for a brace of tries, Moses tried his guts out and it was his two line breaks that created both of his team's tries.
His blistering pace combined with great judgement about when to run the ball was instrumental in those plays and while there were two poor defensive reads, there were some great ones too. He came up and crunched Papalii on one other occasion to shut down an attacking opportunity and came up with back-to-back defensive reads on Aidan Sezer and Josh Hodgson in the seventh minute with the scores still nil-all to shut down Canberra's first attacking chance.
"Absolutely [Moses has developed], there's enormous development for all of us," Tigers coach Jason Taylor said.
"We're a young team and we've got a great future. I'm really excited about that. That [loss] is a really good lesson for us to take into the pre-season and understand where we need to get to."
Top two spot earns reward for Raiders fans
One of the big impacts of the result is that it moved Canberra to second on the ladder, meaning they get to host a final next week rather than travelling back to Sydney.
Stuart said it was a great outcome for the city overall.
"It's good for Canberra, it's good for the community. I know what the club can do for the community, the vibe it creates and the enthusiasm amongst the community during the week," Stuart said.
"There's been some tough periods and now all our fans and Canberra itself is experiencing a good vibe. It's also a good opportunity for these boys to see what's on offer if they're good enough to actually get home semis and this can hopefully build a bigger and stronger supporter base for the next few years."
Stuart said the group had not spoken at all about the chance to earn a home final.
"We knew we had a job to do first," he said. "We couldn't sit back and talk about home semis or what scenario we were going to be involved in because we didn't know until last night.
"We worked along the lines of, we've got to be very professional in our display and be happy with our contribution and performance moving into next week's game. From an individual point of view right through to the team."
However Leilua went off-script when asked the same question by NRL.com.
"That was the main reason we played so well today, we wanted to get that home final," Leilua said.
"We knew [Saturday] night Cronulla lost and we knew that we wanted to get up [to get a home final]."
Game on. Data off.
Stream every NRL game, including finals, live and data free with a 2016 Footy Pass, exclusive to Telstra mobile.
Watch all the NRL action live on your compatible tablet or mobile device with data-free streaming on your Telstra mobile plan.
For use in Australia only.