Jack Wighton put on a clinic to inspire the Raiders to a 36-16 win over the Titans and give his side’s surge towards a top four finish further momentum.
The win, minutes before the Tigers v Roosters clash kicked off at Leichhardt Oval, took Canberra into the top four on 20 competition points and secured Ricky Stuart’s men their fifth win in the last six outings.
When the Raiders lost hooker Josh Hodgson in round nine to a season-ending knee injury there were some who wrote off their chances of making a dent on the title.
Since then Canberra have found a way to cope and prosper with Siliva Havili and Tom Starling doing an outstanding job sharing the dummy-half duties.
Wighton was at his physical and skilful best to set up the win over the Titans and it was his work in the first half which was a class above.
Just like that, Wighton has a double
Ash Taylor was a late withdrawal with a quad injury for the Titans and 20-year-old Tanah Boyd stepped into the starting halves role.
Boyd made his intentions clear early with high involvement and it was his grubber which led to the opening try to Phil Sami for the Titans.
The Raiders hit back through Nick Cotric when Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad caught the Titans short on the flanks with a slick cut-out pass.
Wighton started and finished the next try after wrapping around Elliott Whitehead and sending Jordan Rapana away. The Raiders five-eighth backed up on the inside to finish a superb passage of rugby league.
Match: Titans v Raiders
Round 15 -
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast
Wighton did it all himself for his second try where he showcased his brute strength and dancing feet to prove too powerful and elusive for the defence.
Bench hooker Starling dived over from dummy-half to give the Raiders a 22-4 half-time lead as the wheels fell of the Titans’ defence and discipline.
If there was a moment that summed up the Raiders' determination not to give the opposition a sniff it was in the second half when prop Josh Papalii sprinted 60 metres to run down a flying Jamal Fogarty when the Titans half seemed certain to score.
The home side looked the most dangerous when halfback Fogarty and fullback AJ Brimson combined. Brimson scored when he hit a Fogarty ball at speed close to the line to get the Titans back within 12 points but the Raiders hit back immediately.
Starling showed a deft touch at dummy-half to send Hudson Young crashing over and restore the 18-point margin. Cotric swooped on an errant Sami pass minutes later to score and make it 34-10.
The Titans did not give up and scored late through Keegan Hipgrave but they clearly missed suspended captain Kevin Proctor on the edges and injured lock Jai Arrow in the middle.
The Raiders started with Ryan Sutton and Joseph Tapine in the front-row and both were enormous with their carries.
Cotric scores as the Raiders go the shortside
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart rated Wighton's performance as top shelf.
"I think Jack was our most consistent player in sticking to task," Stuart said.
"He played direct, he played to the strategy and he played to the plan that we wanted to adopt.
"He never looked to lose the will to stick solid to a structured game of footy.
"His decision-making as a half now is improving in taking the line on. I want him to take the line on because he is a great runner of the football.
"He has got elite skill and his pass selection – the type of and how – is really improving considering he has only played there for over 12 months."