Rugby League


What we learned: Wests Tigers v Canberra Raiders


WESTS TIGERS 19 (David Nofoaluma 2, Pat Richards tries; Richards 3 goals; Braith Anasta field goal) bt CANBERRA RAIDERS 18 (Brenko Lee 2, Jarrod Croker tries; Croker 3 goals) at Campbelltown Stadium on Saturday night. Crowd: 9243. Referees: Matt Cecchin and Gavin Reynolds.


The pre-match hype was dominated by Wests Tigers fullback James Tedesco's first confrontation with a Raiders team he turned his back on to stay at Concord after signing a rich three-year deal with Canberra. Unfortunately for Tedesco his match lasted less than a minute when he broke his left kneecap in a collision with Canberra's Terry Campese from the kick-off. It's a cruel blow for Tedesco, who had missed a few matches this year with another knee problem. He also suffered a season-ending knee injury in his NRL debut in round one, 2012, against Cronulla. It was ironic the incident involved Campese, who has had more than his fair share of serious knee injuries. Many Raiders fans would still be disgruntled about Tedesco's about-face, but no football fan wants to see one of the game's brightest young stars on the sideline. 


Rookie Canberra winger Brenko Lee had a debut to forget against Canterbury last week, committing four errors in a 22-14 loss. While he made another mistake with his first touch, he more than compensated with two first-half tries. The second effort was a piece of brilliance which proved why he's rated a representative star of the future by many experts. The 18-year-old was put into space by Anthony Milford, before chipping over the top of Blake Austin and regathering to score. It was just the piece of confidence Lee needed to settle into the big time. 



Injuries in Origin II to Blues outside backs MIchael Jennings and Will Hopoate means Raiders centre Jack Wighton has been touted for a potential debut in next month's dead rubber. However, any hope he had could be lost after he played no part in the second half with a broken thumb. Wighton tried to play on with the issue after sustaining it midway through the first half, but couldn't continue after the break. 


Against a team which finished with one man on the bench, the Raiders should have finished all over the top of the Tigers. It definitely should have been the case after they enjoyed the lion's share of possession and field position in the second half. But they couldn't crack the spirited Tigers' on-line defence. They were guilty of playing too sideways and they eventually paid the price. 


Finishing with just one player on the bench, the Tigers had every excuse to yield against a Raiders side who had plenty of possession in the second half. While helped by some disjointed Raiders attacking raids, they showed plenty of the spirit which has been a hallmark of their season. The Tigers were branded soft by many during last year's horror campaign, but coach Mick Potter deserves plenty of praise for turning their culture around and instilling some heart into the side. The win puts the Tigers back into the top eight, but it remains to be seen whether their lengthening injury toll may now prove too much to overcome.