A good night for the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys in Townsville, outlasting the Vodafone Warriors...
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Jordan Rapana has run rampant on the holiday strip, scoring a first half hat-trick to put the Canberra Raiders on course for a 42-16 win over the injury hit Gold Coast Titans in front of 12309 at Cbus Super Stadium tonight.
It didn't take long for the Raiders big forwards to roll over the advantage line against their weakened opposition and it gave the Raiders right edge attack "Leipana" the chance to shine early. A slick back-line movement resulted in centre Joey Leilua throwing the final pass for his wing-man to cross for the first of his tries in the 7th minute giving his team an early 4-0 lead.
Five minutes later the "Leipana" magic show was at it again albeit this time with a little help from the skillful hands of Prop Junior Paulo. Half Aidan Sezer chipped cross field for Leilua to climb high and take it before passing back to Paulo who showed quick hands to send Rapana over for his second, extending the lead to eight.
Back to back penalties and repeat sets had the Titans under immense pressure following the restart of play, but the home team showed their usual grit to claw their way back into the contest when rookie winger Tyrone Roberts-Davis scooped up a loose ball and raced down field. From the ensuing play the ball the Titans spread it quickly to the right for winger Anthony Don to score in the corner and reduce the deficit to four in the 20th minute.
The Titans would crucially fail to consolidate the points, coughing up the pill in the ensuing set of six putting the Green Machine straight back on the attack. Another slick back-line movement resulted in Rapana wrestling multiple defenders over the line before forcing the ball down to complete his treble in the 25th minute.
After Captain Jarrod Croker missed his first two conversion attempts, duties were handed to former Titan Sezer who slotted the extras from out wide to give his team a 14-4 lead.
After playing a hand in two of his team's earlier tries, fullback Jack Wighton scored a much deserved one himself after slicing through from 30 metres out on the last tackle in the ensuing set of six. Clearly still knowing every inch of his former home ground, Sezer converted from the left touchline this time to hand his team a 20-4 lead.
A couple of weeks ago the boys from "Leipana" asked for their right edge nickname to be changed to "Leipana Head" to include hardworking and skillful edge back-rower Elliot Whitehead and it might just stick after Whitehead got involved for another Raiders classic. Rapana started it all with a chip ahead and regather around the halfway line before bouncing out of a tackle and offloading to Whitehead. The Englishman proceeded to loop a one-hander over the top of Titans cover defenders for Leilua to race in for the try.
The conversion from Sezer was again good giving the Raiders a 26-4 lead with ten minutes left in the opening stanza.
The Raiders purple patch eventually came to an end upon the restart with an unforced error gifting the home team a chance to hit back. After receiving the call up to the run-on team tonight, hooker Karl Lawton crashed over in the 35th minute to send his team into the sheds with some hope of a second half comeback.
Hope was well and truly restored when Lawton split the Raiders defence in the opening set of six following oranges to send halfback Ashley Taylor on a 40 metre sprint to the line to reduce the deficit to ten.
The comeback proved short-lived after Whitehead picked up the scraps from another Sezer cross field kick to score in the corner in the 49th minute giving his team a 30-16 lead and ultimately breaking the Titans so far unflappable spirit.
Next week the Raiders return home to host the Warriors at GIO Stadium on Saturday evening, whilst the Titans will be praying for an early Easter miracle in some of their wounded men recovering in time to face the daunting task of heading up the M1 to Suncorp Stadium for a Good Friday clash with big brothers Brisbane.