Wests Tigers have battled bravely but ultimately succumb to the Canberra Raiders 14-6 in a hard-fought clash on Saturday night.
Questioned for their discipline and intensity after last week's loss to the Gold Coast Titans, Michael Maguire's men responded with a gritty performance against last year's Grand Finalists — typified by keeping their try-line tact for the entire first half.
After dominating the early proceedings and going close to opening the scoring through Harry Grant, it was Josh Reynolds and Luke Brooks who combined for the opening four-pointer after 16 minutes when Brooks pounced on an error from Curtis Scott to bag his try of the season.
Moses Mbye was unable to convert from out wide, leaving the score at 4-0, which is remarkably how it would remain for the entirety of the first half.
David Nofoaluma went within a whisker of bagging his seventh try for the year in the final play before half-time, but a gentle toe graze of the sideline denied Wests Tigers the chance to enter the sheds with a two-try advantage.
Brooks takes advatage of a loose ball from kick contest
Having been held scoreless through the opening 40 minutes, Canberra began the second half with plenty of energy and found themselves on the front foot off the back of a run of penalties and six-again calls. Jack Wighton would escape charge for a raised elbow on Josh Reynolds to bag his side's first try, before a sin-bin to Russell Packer after a controversial strip call saw Nick Cotric sail over out wide.
Croker's sideline conversion pushed the visitors' lead to 12-4, before a penalty goal for a late shot on Reynolds saw the score reduced to six points, and crucially took some time off the clock to allow Packer back on the field.
With their penalties accrued double that of Wests Tigers, Canberra would restore their eight-point lead 11 minutes from time with a Croker penalty goal, which the Raiders would hold through to the end despite a late charge from the hosts.
Despite the result, Wests Tigers will certainly take plenty of confidence from their resolve shown against the competition favourites and will look to bounce back next Saturday when they take on the North Queensland Cowboys at Campbelltown.
Canberra Raiders 14 (Wighton, Cotric tries; Croker 3/3 goals) def. Wests Tigers 6 (Brooks tries; Mbye 1/2 goals) at Campbelltown Sports Stadium
Match: Wests Tigers v Raiders
Round 5 -
Venue: Campbelltown Stadium, Sydney