They’re big, strong and rapidly improving – something special looks to be building under Ricky Stuart at Canberra.
The Raiders are closing in on the NRL top four after picking up a 30-22 win over Gold Coast on Sunday, their fourth win in five matches.
Two late tries to the home team gave the scoreline a deceptively close look after the Raiders had earlier charged to a 30-10 lead despite the absence of hooker Josh Hodgson and utility Kurt Baptiste (both concussion).
Captain Jarrod Croker led the way in the opening half, scoring two tries to take his tally to seven tries in eight matches at CBUS Super Stadium, as the Raiders led 18-10 at the break.
Winger Brenko Lee then added a double for the visitors to take the game away from the Titans and lift the Raiders to seventh – just one point behind fourth-placed North Queensland.
Stuart said his team’s discipline and resilience amid their injuries was the most pleasing aspect of the victory.
“The only way we’re going to unearth the real talent of this squad is by being statistically good,” the Raiders coach said.
“We make games so much harder for ourselves. Where as today, albeit they’ve been in a very tough contest, we wouldn’t have been as dominant if we had have made unforced errors again.”
Queensland State of Origin forward Josh Papalii continued his impressive season, from 13 hit-ups he ran for 114 metres and made 24 tackles.
Centre Joey Leilua also enhanced his chances of an Origin call-up by NSW coach Laurie Daley, making three offloads and three tackle busts in a busy display.
Stuart also praised the efforts of Sia Soliola (ribs) and fullback Jack Wighton (chest) in playing through pain to ensure the Raiders took two points home to Canberra.
“We were playing with blokes out there that should have been sitting on the sideline but I couldn’t (take them off),” he said.
The Titans also finished the match with 15 players after Nathan Davis suffered a suspected broken ankle in the first half and had to be taken to hospital, while Eddy Pettybourne (concussion) sat out the second half.
Davis’ injury means the Titans are scrambling to find outside backs for next week’s trip to the New Zealand, with David Mead, Konrad Hurrell and John Olive also sidelined.
“Zeb Taia had to fill in so we had our backrowers playing centre,” Titans coach Neil Henry said.
“But still there’s a job to do, we missed too many tackles.
“We’ve got a bit of fight in us but realistically we’re disappointed with some of those defensive efforts, with some of those tries.”