Josh Hodgson has hoisted Canberra to a top-two NRL finish, with the Raiders’ 52-10 final-round victory also ending Wests Tigers’ top-eight hopes.
The Green Machine will host Cronulla in the first week of the finals after Hodgson’s brilliance from dummy-half engineered the nine-tries-to-two win at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday before 18,634 fans.
However Raiders fullback Jack Wighton faces a nervous wait after being placed on report for a shoulder charge on Joel Edwards.
Canberra led 30-4 at halftime after completely dominating the first half, with Josh Papalii scoring two tries and Joey Leilua throwing the pass of the year – a ‘swivel-flick’ while running backwards – for a Jordan Rapana four-pointer.
A win for the Tigers at their spiritual home would have propelled them into eighth spot over Gold Coast but they were outclassed across the park on a warm day perfect for football.
The match started horribly for the Tigers when Tim Simona put the kickoff out on the full and they were under pressure for most of the opening 40 minutes.
A Josh Aloiai try after a Mitchell Moses linebreak in the 22nd minute was all the home side could muster in the first stanza.
Moses tried hard to spark the Tigers but they were no match for Hodgson’s scheming around the ruck.
Tim Grant stretched out to score a minute after the break to give the Tigers some hope of a comeback but Leilua crashed over soon after to put paid to that.
When Rapana scored his second try of the day and 20th of the season with 13 minutes remaining, the crowd of 18,634 began streaming for the exits.
The most joy Tigers fans had was when 2005 premiership winner Robbie Farah farewelled the club with a lap of honour at half-time.
The Raiders’ regular season points tally of 688 eclipsed the club record of 677 set by the premiership-winning side of 1994.