Raiders mar Benji’s head coach debut with dominant win

Alex Mitchell |

Canberra had plenty to celebrate as they crushed West Tigers 32-12.
Canberra had plenty to celebrate as they crushed West Tigers 32-12.

Benji Marshall’s NRL coaching tenure is off to a poor start, with his Wests Tigers outfit well beaten by an in-form Canberra at GIO Stadium.

Marshall’s first outing as an NRL head coach didn’t go to plan, with his team taking just 15 minutes to tumble into a 14-0 hole on the way to a 32-12 defeat.

A flashy first-half display, where Canberra’s new-look left edge of Sebastian Kris and Xavier Savage ran amok, helped the Raiders back up their round-one upset of Newcastle, defying any pre-season thoughts of a tumble down the ladder.

But the change of head coach only brought more of the same for back-to-back wooden-spooners Wests Tigers, who did get back into the contest at 14-12 with consecutive tries before fading out.

Benji Marshall
Benji Marshall endured a tough initiation as an NRL head coach. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

An upbeat Marshall said the side’s discipline might have killed them, but their resilience couldn’t be questioned.

“Being 14-0 down against Canberra at home, it’s quite a tough ask to come back,” he said.

“But after (fighting back)  we went away from the things we spoke about during this week, we put in two chip kicks, which we haven’t practiced, and off the back of it conceded two soft tries that were unacceptable.

“With a team like that, with Joseph Tapine in form … and (Josh) Papali’i, the way they’re playing, if you don’t get in front and they get the momentum, they’re hard to stop.”

The visitors did fire a rare shot as things looked to be spiralling, debutant five-eighth Lachlan Galvin creating for Samuela Fainu before skipper Api Koroisau danced his way over the line for 14-12.

But it was the last time they would be close to the Raiders, who scored the game’s three remaining tries behind a near 90 per cent completion rate.

“The resilience of the fightback was great, but we’ve got a room full of disappointed guys with the result and it’s the start of our season, we all probably expected a little bit more from each other,” Marshall lamented.

Apisai Koroisau
Api Koroisau’s try helped provide some hope for the West Tigers. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

Kris and Savage combined at will to take the sword to the Tigers as the Raiders took over early.

Twice Kris’s physicality was able to get his winger through the line, speedster Savage first finding Danny Levi for a try before grabbing his own on the stroke of half-time.

Teen five-eighth Ethan Strange also took a turn carving up the Tigers’ right side, bouncing off defenders to score his first NRL try.

Kris failed an HIA early in the second term, forcing second-rower Zac Hosking to deputise in the Raiders centres.

Hosking, who starred in his first home outing as a Raider, didn’t seem to mind the change and scored the only try of the second half.

Kiwi international Kris is almost certain to miss the Raiders’ Friday night clash in New Zealand against the Warriors.

But coach Ricky Stuart liked the way his side steadied after threatening to throw away their lead.

“Something we’ve spoken about through the off-season, especially this week, is we have to be better once we get into the lead,” he said.

“They bounced back to 14-12 … (but) you don’t try and find the cheap try or put some play on where it’s against what we’ve been practicing.

“Sticking to the plan was great, it’s easy to say but it was hard to do.”