Raiders smash Tigers to seal finals spot

·3-min read

Canberra rubber stamped their return to the finals in style by smashing a woeful Wests Tigers side 56-10 at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday.

The victory in front of 10,041 fans ensures the Raiders, who missed the finals last season, finish eighth and set up an elimination final showdown away to Melbourne on Saturday.

Canberra, who had nine try-scorers, go to Melbourne knowing they have beaten the Storm at AAMI Park on four successive visits since 2019.

But the fallout will focus on an abject end to a disastrous season for the Tigers.

They finished the year with the wooden spoon for the first time in their history and have managed just one win since sacking Michael Maguire in May.

Captain James Tamou said that after every loss the dressing room had been a scene of "devastation".

They were booed off at half-time on Sunday when they trailed 42-0 and it will take more than the return of 71-year-old Tim Sheens as head coach for them to resemble anything like a finals contender.

"At one of our home venues it was important to play well but it was a really poor first half," said interim coach Brett Kimmorley.

"It could've been extremely ugly if it had've stayed on that path

"It doesn't change the fulltime result, but 16-10 in the second half was a better outcome than what it could've potentially got to, which would've been very dark and very bad for the club."

Stuart opted to rest Jack Wighton and Elliott Whitehead but even accounting for the absence of their star five-eighth and captain, the Raiders were too strong for Wests.

Every single member of the Raiders starting backline - Xavier Savage, Nick Cotric, Matt Timoko, Seb Kris and Jordan Rapana - managed to cross before half-time, while second-rower Hudson Young and halfback Jamal Fogarty rounded out the first-half rout.

The Raiders fell six points short of the NRL's record first-half margin, set by Newcastle against North Queensland in 2003, with the Tigers jeered off the field at the break.

Fogarty, who converted all seven goals in the first half, was given an early mark by Stuart ahead of a bruising encounter with Melbourne.

"We're in good form and the players are full of belief and confidence," Stuart said.

"They are difficult games to play when you know what's coming next week but the senior players have been a massive help to me as a coach."

The Tigers did find some rhythm in the second half, scoring through a quick flurry courtesy of Daine Laurie and Ken Maumalo.

But Young hit back for his second of the afternoon and further pressed his claim to earn a spot in the Australian Test squad later this year.

The back-rower was taken off with 20 minutes to play with Raiders prop Josh Papalii crashing over from close range to finish the rampage.

Canberra looked long odds to make the top eight midway through the year but have been able to string seven wins from their last eight together to force their way into the top eight and knock out Brisbane in the process.