In a surprising turn of events, Canberra battled errors, an aggressive Wests Tigers squad, and a challenging first half, eventually clinching a 22-18 win. The victory keeps their top-four finish dream alive.
Simultaneously on Sunday, Parramatta progressed in their chase for a finals spot, securing a hard-fought 26-20 win over St George Illawarra. This win propels the Eels to ninth on the leaderboard, nipping at the top eight, held back only by a poorer points difference.
In Canberra, the Tigers had a fleeting glimmer of hope for a win at the end. David Nofoaluma, a seasoned winger, couldn’t fully secure a kick from Luke Brooks. Despite keeping the ball in the game, his pass to Starford To’a ended with To’a taken over the sideline.
Canberra center Sebastian Kris exemplified his team’s bumpy ride on the field, delivering two tries before succumbing to a hamstring injury.
The Raiders‘ performance was a mix of sparkling moments and hair-pulling errors, completing only 13 of 23 sets and making 10 mistakes in the first half alone. The Tigers also squandered several attacks, leaving Canberra leading 10-6 at half-time.
Despite both teams’ struggles to cross the line in the first 25 minutes, Kris seized an opportunity after a Wighton kick.
Boosting the lead to 10-0, Hudson Young seized a short ball from Zac Woolford. The Tigers retaliated when Nofoaluma intercepted a charge downfield, forwarding a long pass to Brooks, who found Charlie Staines for a try.
Kris made an impressive 60-metre dash for a try four minutes into the second half, though it was followed by an immediate retirement due to injury, leaving his team ahead at 16-6.
A thrilling denouement was set as the teams traded tries. Tigers‘ hooker Api Koroisau‘s immaculate kick provided a try for Brooks with the clock showing 10 minutes to remain. Despite the Tigers‘ valiant scramble, the home side’s defense held steadfast, propelling them to fifth place on the ladder.
Meanwhile at Western Sydney Stadium, Parramatta’s Dylan Brown made a triumphant comeback from suspension. His game-winning play helped the Eels fight back for the win, keeping their finals aspirations aflame.
The Eels, expected to easily surpass the 16th-placed Dragons, found themselves faced with a challenging situation when Mikaele Ravalawa of the Dragons hit a career-high with four tries. This led to a 10-point lead for the visiting squad early in the second half.
Despite the setback, Brown emerged with a cross-field kick, setting up Bryce Cartwright for a second try and a decisive lead with 10 minutes on the clock.
Parramatta coach Brad Arthur made strategic changes to halt Ravalawa’s onslaught, but his efforts were in vain as Ravalawa flirted with the boundary line to score four tries – a first for a Dragon since 2009.
In a weekend of controversies, Ravalawa and Zac Lomax narrowly escaped being sent off, despite being placed on report. Ravalawa’s high hit on Brown and Lomax’s dangerous tackle on Andrew Davey left the officials with much to deliberate on. Ryan Couchman also joined them under scrutiny for a risky shot on Parramatta halfback Mitch Moses.