A Jack Wighton first-half double has helped the Canberra Raiders secure a first-up win over the Gold Coast Titans 24-6 at GIO Stadium.
Amid speculation the game and indeed the entire first round of the NRL would be cancelled due to coronavirus fears, 10,610 fans witnessed an at times scratchy Raiders side secure the win.
After a defensively soft start the Titans eventually found some starch after half-time, but a lack of effective kicking options and unforced errors proved their biggest downfall.
The Raiders got the perfect start to the game when Wighton strolled through some weak Titans defence on their right edge, after the away side turned over the ball on just the third tackle of the game.
Newly re-signed co-captain Jarrod Croker added the extras and Canberra surged ahead early.
Wighton doubled his tally in the 11th minute, when the Raiders were given a golden chance to attack after a late-tackle penalty on the Canberra five-eighth..
Match: Raiders v Titans
Round 1 -
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
Croker’s conversion saw him become just the seventh man in premiership history to pass 2000 career points.
He is also the youngest player to reach the milestone at 29.
The Gold Coast were given their best chance of the game when an under-pressure chip-kick from Wighton gave the ball back on halfway.
But summing up the Titans game to date, a forward pass inside the Raiders’ 20-metre area released the pressure on the home side.
The Titans sniffed the tryline for the first time in the game off the back of the Raiders’ first penalty of the game, but scrambling goal-line defence from Canberra kept their clean sheet.
Canberra were denied a try after broken field running from Nick Cotric and Curtis Scott before George Williams was ruled by the bunker to have lost the ball in the tackle just short of the line.
Wighton grabs a double
The Titans’ last-tackle options continued to cost them any time they got within sight of the Raiders’ tryline, with often slow chases giving Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad plenty of time to clean up at the back.
Canberra took a further stranglehold on game when Josh Hodgson found Emre Guler with a short ball close to the line with interchange forward scoring his first try for the club in his 15th game.
Croker’s left boot was true and the Raiders jumped out to a 18-0 lead after 32 minutes.
Wighton continued his sensational first half with a 40-20 only to see his good work come undone with a loose pass to Bailey Simonsson.
Nicoll-Klokstad left the field due to a HIA just before half-time forcing Simonsson to fullback with the starting custodian not returning to the field after the break.
Anthony Don eventually broke the Titans scoring drought with a run against the grain of the play see the away side narrow the gap to 12.
A sloppy start to the second half by the Raiders was in stark contrast to their first 40 minutes but the Titans failed to find a follow-up attacking after Don’s effort.
The Titans’ defence muscled up in the 57th minute when they forced Simonsson back into his in-goal.
However, again an unforced error let the home side off the hook at a time in the game where one more try to the away team could have put the result back on the table.
After giving away a slew of penalties the Titans defence eventually cracked when Elliott Whitehead steamed onto a pass and slammed the ball down to make it 24-6 with 15 minutes to play.
Don pegs one back for the Titans