The IGT & Go Sport Balmain Ryde-Eastwood Tigers were narrowly defeated by the Canberra Raiders 31-24 at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday.
Canberra got into a rhythm early, crossing for 3 tries in the early part of the half to lead 16-0.
Replacement Taniela Tuiaki hit back soon after, crossing out wide on the end of a sweeping backline movement which allowed him to hit a gap in the defensive line at pace and beat a defender. Five eighth Luke Branighan converted to close the score to 16-6.
A few minutes later fullback Joel Caine crossed out wide after some great hole running saw him zip through a gap untouched. Branighan's kick drew them closer at 16-12.
Close to half time Branighan crossed in the right hand corner after he set up a 40/20 scrum win and in that set they spread it right along the backline where Branighan spotted a gap and hit it perfectly, taking a defender across with him. He nailed the conversion from the sideline to give the Tigers the lead at half time 18-16.
It was a tense battle at the commencement of the second half with neither team able to take their opportunities to add points until the 16th minute when the Raiders crossed out wide off a scrum 30m out to edge ahead 20-18.
The Raiders crossed in the left hand corner following a Tigers' error close to their line but couldn't add the extras to go further ahead 24-18.
Soon after winger Alwyn Simpson crossed in the right hand corner following a scrum win where they sent it right for centre Luke Hession to get outside of his man and he offloaded to Simpson who cleverly evaded swarming cover defence then found himself with a clear passage to the line. Caine showed why he was the NRL's leading pointscorer a few years ago, piloting the sideline conversion straight between the posts to draw level at 24-all.
Close to full time the Raiders took advantage of their field position and potted a field goal from 30m out to sneak ahead 25-24.
A few minutes later Canberra crossed out wide after they made good ground from a kick return to get into the Tigers' 10m zone and were able to find a gap in the defence to score. The conversion took the score out to 31-24 and the Tigers weren't able to reel them in, Canberra finishing the match 31-24 victors.
The loss to the Raiders could prove to be costly as the season progresses, with the match in the balance and there for the taking on a number of occasions. The Players' Player award went to lock Chris Beasley, who has started to show good form over the past couple of weeks since stepping up from Jim Beam Cup last year now that his injuries are behind him. A very popular Man of the Match was front rower Jeff Lima who turned in a strong performance off the back of some quality game time and we're looking forward to seeing both players continue to produce these displays in the coming weeks.
Next week both teams are back on the road as they continue their quest to move further up the competition ladder. Jersey Flegg braves the cold of the nation's capital as they travel to Canberra to meet the Canberra Raiders on Saturday 11 June at 1.45pm, while Premier League also contend with wintry conditions as they venture out to St Marys to clash with the Penrith St Marys Cougars on Friday night at 7pm. Fingers crossed that the players can turn their form around and get back into the winners' circle before the local derby against fellow joint venture club Western Suburbs at Campbelltown the following Friday night. If you want tough uncompromising football that will be one match where everything is laid on the line. See you there!!Like