Coach Ricky Stuart feels a new era beckons at Canberra after the Raiders recorded their greatest-ever successful comeback in a 30-22 NRL win over Wests Tigers.
The Raiders fought back from 0-22 down after a horror opening 25 minutes at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday afternoon, scoring 30 unanswered points in one of the sweetest victories since the club was established in 1982.
With five-eighth Blake Austin and back-up rake Kurt Baptiste leading the way, the visitors clawed back to 22-12 at halftime before dominating the second half with a gusty southerly on their backs before 13,198 fans.
“Without trying to be silly about it I can’t remember a greater comeback, just the adversity of it,” Stuart said.
“We spoke about it at halftime and it was a decision the boys had and shows the spirit of the joint at the moment.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the players we have in the club.
“It gives us the opportunity to set up the season.
“It gives us a new template. It is amazing what desire and hunger can help you achieve.”
The Raiders’ previous biggest comeback was when they fought back from 20-2 down against Manly in 1998.
It was the second-biggest lead the Tigers have given up, after a 23-point comeback from the Panthers in 2000.
On the back of a number of handling errors and poor defensive reads from the Raiders, the Tigers launched an early blitzkrieg.
Tim Simona crossed after just three minutes after a Jordan Rapana dropped ball, before prop Keith Galloway crashed over four minutes later.
Luke Brooks then added to that, after James Tedesco slashed through the Raiders line, and Pat Richards scored the Tigers’ fourth try for the 22-0 lead.
But the game began to turn with Galloway off with a shoulder injury, forcing Tiger coach Jason Taylor to rearrange his interchanges.
Shannon Boyd shrugged off Tigers prop Aaron Woods close to the line to open the Raiders’ account in the 28th minute.
Then captain Jason Croker latched onto a Blake Austin cross-kick in the 35th minute to score, making it 22-12 at the break.
Frank Paul Nuuausala brought the scoreline closer with his 45th minute try, before Jack Wighton burst onto a Sam Williams pass and evened up the scores with 13 minutes to play.
Croker missed the conversion, but slotted a 42m penalty goal in the tricky conditions a few minutes later to put the Raiders ahead.
Brooks was rightly disallowed a late Tigers try for obstruction, before Rapana put the match to bed in the 79th minute with a try out wide.
Taylor said the two tries before halftime allowed the Raiders back into the contest.
“We got what we deserved,” he said.
“We are still a way off from where we want to get to and how we want to play as a team.
“The way we defended before halftime wasn’t good enough, simple as that.
“It was probably those tries we let in before halftime that really came back to hurt us because that is as strong a wind as you can play in.”