The Canberra Raiders have sent shockwaves through the competition with a 48-12 thumping defeat of an embarrassing Wests Tigers side in front of over 10,000 fans at Campbelltown Stadium.
The return of hooker Josh Hodgson seemed to inspire Ricky Stuart's men as they overcame a 12-10 half-time deficit to run in seven tries in the second half.
Canberra were the ones who opened the scoring in the fourth minute when Joseph Leilua crashed over off a simple left-side raid off a scrum. However, the Raiders also lacked commitment in defence, with Chris Lawrence slicing through the Canberra defence off a Matt McIllwrick pass in the 10th minute. Only four minutes later the home side had another and this time it was Corey Thompson forced his way over the line off a short ball from McIllwrick out of dummy-half. The Raiders were under immediate pressure with their season on the line and the game was quickly deteriorating with Blake Austin sin-binned in the 23rd minute after interfering with a quick tap by Thompson.
However, the return of Hodgson seemed to spark the Green Machine into action, with the Raiders hitting back in the 26th minute when their first-preference hooker sent Josh Papaliii crashing over off a lovely short ball. As a result, despite the early setback of Austin's sin-binning, the Raiders only trailed 12-10 at the break.
A quick penalty saw the Raiders gain early momentum in the second half and they were fast to capitalise with Hodgson again the creator, this time sending Joseph Tapine over for a try in the 43rd minute. 10 minutes later Canberra extended their lead when a special flick pass from Jarrod Croker saw Nick Cotric scream down the sideline and dive over. A confident Raiders side is one that no team in the competition would want to face.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, that is exactly what they got in the second half. Hodgson put Tapine over for his second in the 59th minute off an almost identical play to that which saw the second rower cross over earlier. One of Blake Austin's strongest assets is his running game and it was on full display in the 64th minute when he stepped through the Tigers' defence to score. It was quickly getting embarrassing, with Jack Wighton slicing through the line off the kick-off to post what looked like Canberra's seventh try of the night. However, the Bunker would spoil the party after ruling Hodgson obstructed Elijah Taylor in the lead up. It did not count for much though, with Michael Oldfield crossing over three minutes later off a well-executed team try.
It appeared as if Canberra front rower Shannan Boyd had even bagged an unlikely try, only for the Bunker to again deny him after sensationally claiming he had failed to ground the ball. Again, the Raiders ensured that it mattered little when Leilua bagged his second of the night off the following play. The massacre was not over, however, with Liam Knight then spinning around Elijah Taylor before barging over in the 78th minute. After all that, the scoreboard read 48-12 in favour of a rampaging Raiders outfit that sent a statement to the rest of the competition.
Both sides have the representative round to regroup after tonight's result. The Tigers need to bounce back quickly when they host the Titans at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday afternoon in two week's time. Meanwhile, the Raiders will look to make it back-to-back wins when they travel to Suncorp Stadium in a fortnight to face the Broncos.