Canberra’s hopes of an NRL finals berth are hanging by a thread, after going down 20-18 to Wests Tigers at GIO Stadium on Monday night.
Needing to win at least four of their remaining five games, the Raiders failed to hold off a resurgent Tigers outfit who have now claimed back-to-back wins for the first time since the opening two rounds.
A first-half double to prop Shannon Boyd and the late inclusion of influential hooker Josh Hodgson wasn’t enough to inspire the home side in front of 8,704 fans.
The disappointing result was only made worse with veteran David Shillington sent off in the dying seconds of his 200th NRL appearance for an alleged headbutt on NSW enforcer Aaron Woods.
Seemingly still riding high from last week’s upset win over Melbourne, the Tigers looked sharp and dangerous throughout the match.
Fullback James Tedesco again took control and, with the help of halfback Luke Brooks, set up Sauaso Sue for their first try in the 14th minute.
The Raiders threatened to bite back quickly, but thwarted their chances with a handful of errors.
It was through Boyd they eventually found the points, the 122kg prop using his brute strength to cross in the 27th minute and again just before halftime for a 12-4 lead.
He celebrated his second by throwing the ball at Tedesco, who had been caught napping on the tryline on the back of a penalty.
But that bit of theatre only served to rev Tedesco up after the break, with the No.1 outrunning Sisa Waqa and Jack Wighton on the back of a quick 20m restart for a much-needed try to close the gap to four points.
They briefly regained the lead in the 63rd minute via a converted try via Pat Richards.
But the Raiders made sure it didn’t last long with a long-range four-pointer of their own.
Wighton and Hodgson combined to set up skipper Jarrod Croker in an effort that spanned the length of the field.
The Tigers, though, weren’t ready to give up, with Brooks scoring in the closing 10 minutes left on the back of more Tedesco magic to seal the victory.
The Raiders next face Manly at home on Sunday afternoon, while the Tigers host Newcastle at Campbelltown on Saturday.