On Friday night the magic run of the Raiders came to an abrupt halt after they went down by just two points in a thriller semi against the Wests Tigers at Canberra Stadium in front of a record 27,750 crowd.
Coming off a similarly close match against the Panthers, the results and luck just didn’t go the Raiders way this time and despite a determined performance the Green Machine’s season is now over.
In more bad news for Canberra, star player Terry Campese suffered a nasty knee injury on Friday night and was stretchered off the field in the second half, forced to watch the season-ending defeat of his club from the sideline.
Chris Heighington was at juicy odds through Sportsbet to score the first try
The Tigers suffered an upset loss to the Roosters in the first round of the finals but it was their turn to cause an upset when they scraped through this time.
Things came down to the wire on Friday night and the Tigers and Tim Sheens were forced to face a similar ending to the week before.
With three minutes on the clock there was just two points between the Tigers and the Raiders and then a penalty awarded to Canberra for a high shot had Jarrod Croker lining up to take a 30m kick and force the game into extra time.
Memories of Braith Anasta’s final second field goal from the qualifiers were still fresh in the Tigers minds, but the NRL Gods were on their side this time as Crocker did a ‘Burt’ and missed the kick and the chance to continue Canberra’s finals streak.
At halftime the bookies adjusted the odds and the Tigers were the favourites
It was a spectacular start to the night with three tries scored in the opening 20 minutes.
The Tigers were first to open their account when Chris Heighington scored the first try of match seven minutes in thanks to a swift flick pass from Benji Marshall, who then converted to give the visitors an early six point lead.
Quick to answer back Bronson Harrison got over for the Raiders in the 13th minute, Croker converting to tie the score six all.
The just three minutes later Gareth Ellis scored the Tigers second, again thanks to a deft no-look pass from Marshall, showing none of the pain his injured knee must have been causing the cold Canberra weather, who again converted to push the Tigers in front.
Having found momentum the Tigers were over again just four minutes later when winger Lote Tuiqiri scored their third converted try of the night after a charging 60m run, extending their lead 18 – 6.
Before the first half was over, Canberra’s Joel Monaghan added some respectability to the halftime score with a 27th minute try converted by Croker, the Tigers taking a narrow 18 – 12 lead to the sheds and the bookies adjusting the odds accordingly so the original underdogs became the halftime favourites.
Back in the break the Wests Tigers extended their lead when Chris Lawrence, back less than three weeks after breaking his jaw, crossed for their fourth and final try of the night, Marshall’s kick making it 26 – 12.
Then in typical Raiders style, the Green Machine enjoyed a powerful late burst forcing the Tigers to watch their hard-earned lead slowly dwindle down to just two points.
First Trevor Thurling scored in the 57th minute for the Raiders, but then a controversial penalty awarded to the Tigers right in front of their rival’s goalposts had Marshall kick another two for his team.
Then with six minutes left on the clock, Canberra’s returning skipper Alan Tongue scored and it was a two point game.
A sloppy tackle by Simon Dwyer forced the late penalty that gave Canberra a golden opportunity, but Croker’s missed conversion gave the game away to the Tigers who had just hung on.
The Tigers will start the underdogs against the Dragons this week but if you fancy them to cause an upset at juicy odds then sign up with Ladbrokes.com.au now and get in on the action!