NRL round 18: Gold Coast Titans v Canberra Raiders
The Raiders proved too strong in a 36-20 win over the Titans on the Gold Coast. Photo: Getty Images
CANBERRA RAIDERS 36 (Anthony Milford 2, Brenko Lee, Jarrod Croker, Shaun Fensom, Josh McCrone tries; Croker six goals) bt GOLD COAST TITANS 20 (Kalifa Faifai Loa 2, James Roberts, Kevin Gordon tries; Gordon 2 goals) at Cbus Super Stadium on Sunday. Crowd: 10,925. Referees: Jared Maxwell and David Munro.
MILFORD THE MAGICIAN
It was the Anthony Milford show as the Canberra Raiders fullback put on a master class of attacking brilliance in orchestrating the 36-20 victory against the Gold Coast Titans. Milford was everywhere, scoring two tries and having a hand in another couple, including throwing an incredible touch pass for Jarrod Croker's four pointer. With Milford in this sort of dynamic form, the Raiders are capable of challenging any team in the competition. The only downside for Raiders fans is knowing Milford will be taking his talents to the Brisbane Broncos next season.
STAYING OFF BOTTOM
The Raiders made sure they didn't return to the bottom of the NRL ladder for the first time in more than three years. A loss to the Titans and a Sharks' victory against the Knights would have left the Raiders in last place, somewhere they haven't been since 2011. The Raiders started the round as $2.10 favourites for most losses in the season, but are now two competition points clear of the Sharks.
FINALS STILL ALIVE
It's a long shot, but the Raiders have kept the door ever so slightly ajar for a late resurgence to the finals. The Raiders are 15th on the table with a 5-11 win-loss record. They would need to win at least seven of their remaining eight games to squeeze into the top eight. Five of those are at Canberra Stadium, while only three games – against the Storm (away), Souths (home) and Warriors (home) – are against sides inside the top eight. The Raiders went on a similar run in 2010 when they won eight of their last nine games to storm into the finals. On Sunday's form, they have the attack capable of troubling any team in the competition.
CURSE OF No.4
For the second game in a row, the Raiders had the player wearing the No. 4 jersey picking up an injury. In the 19-18 loss to the Tigers, it was Jack Wighton sustaining a broken thumb. This time it was his replacement, Brenko Lee, leaving the field in the second half with a hamstring complaint. It was Lee's first NRL game in the centres after playing the previous two on the wing. If Lee isn't fit for Saturday's match against the Melbourne Storm, the Raiders will likely recall fellow rookie Matt Allwood from the NSW Cup.
CROKER v COAL TRAIN
Raiders centre Jarrod Croker showed why he was brought into camp with the NSW State of Origin team with an impressive performance, especially in defence. Croker and his opposite centre James Roberts engaged in an entertaining one-on-one battle throughout the game. Roberts got the better of Croker when he showed a clean pair of heels to find the try-line. But Croker kept his composure, holding his own when Dave the "Coal Train'' Taylor ran straight at him. Croker has been one of the Raiders' best this season and is on the verge of representative honours.