Josh Hodgson has made a stunning comeback from an ACL injury to set up three tries and help inspire the Canberra Raiders to a dominating 48-12 victory over the Wests Tigers in Campbelltown on Sunday.
The Raiders trailed 12-10 at half-time but piled on seven second-half tries to blow the Tigers away in spectacular fashion and leave the joint venture in a desperate position heading into representative round next week.
Canberra's two-point deficit at the break could have been worse without Hodgson's dominance as the Tigers dominated in the opening quarter of the game, but the returning rake never looked like a player who had been sidelined for the opening four months of the season.
Hodgson entered the field via the bench in the 25th minute and his first dart out of dummy half drew a penalty as he caught Matt McIlwrick off side, before he threw a short ball between his opposite number and back-rower Robbie Rochow for Josh Papalii to charge over the line.
Canberra took the lead immediately after the break – again through the hands of Hodgson – as he sent Joseph Tapine over from short range.
Hodgson went to pivot 12 minutes later to help set up Canberra's third with some quick hands between he and Jarrod Croker sending Nick Cotric over in the corner.
Ivan Cleary's men were their own worst enemies in the second half with a series of errors killing off any chance of a comeback.
Cleary also has further injury concerns with Matt McIlwrick (ankle), Chris Lawrence (concussion) and Mahe Fonua (suspected broken forearm) all casualties from the game.
Rookie five-eighth Tyson Gamble looked threatening early with the absence of Josh Reynolds and Benji Marshall, but came up with two momentum-turning errors to let the visitors off the hook.
The result was sealed when Hodgson sent Tapine over for a double in the 60th minute as Chris Lawrence remained in back play following some friendly fire from Russell Packer in a tackle.
Canberra made the scoreline embarrassing late in the game as Aidan Sezer linked with Blake Austin.
Match: Wests Tigers v Raiders
Round 15 -
Venue: Campbelltown Stadium
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Austin had endured a nightmare first half, coming up with a poor defensive lapse for the Tigers' second try before being sent to the sin bin after being caught inside the 10 after a quick tap from Thompson.
But the 10-minute spell proved a turning point for the visitors with the inspiration of Hodgson swinging momentum the Raiders' way.
The Raiders were denied a long-range stunning try to Jack Wighton from the kick-off but went in for three further tries at the death to hand the Tigers their heaviest defeat of the season.
Joey Leilua marked a successful return from concussion last week with a double, while Liam Knight crossed late in the big win.