Crikey Sports introduces Pat Byrne, project manager and sports fan who, in conjunction with Crikey Sports, will be publishing a weekly column where he thinks outside the square in bringing you the game of the week as he sees it … in a box…

Pat Byrne, blogger and “Game-in-a-box” creator writes:

The Canberra Raiders had to win this game to get their season back on track after not winning since the first round against the Cronulla Sharks. The Wests Tigers would also have been feeling the heat a little after two losses. It was going to come down to who was hungrier I suspected.

It looked like the Raiders were the hungrier as they scored first after a pretty good lead up with Orford kicking into a large hole for Dugan to pick up the ball. It appeared he dropped ball before the line but the Video Referee said it had been knocked out and Dugan had regathered. First blood to the Raiders.

The Tigers’ first try was to McKinnon who took a pass off Heighington when he broke into the clear just near the half way. Ten minutes later and the Tigers were over again when Farah saw a big space behind the Raiders defensive line. He popped a chip over into that space, regathered the ball and passed it to Marshall who went over the line to the right but brought it back around under the posts. Dugan was very deep and so that created the space for Farah’s chip kick.

Then the Tigers scored two quick tries from two Raiders mistakes. They held possession for quite a while here as well and the Tigers and made the most of it. The first Raiders mistake was a knock on inside their own 20 metres. The Tigers eventually went go left and McKinnon got his second try.  The second mistake was when Dugan tried to prevent a 40/20 kick from Lui.  But in the process Dugan knocked on and so the Tigers got the scrum feed regardless. From the scrum the Tigers went right and Marshall did a big run in and out across the field, and eventually finds Utai on the outside of his man and Utai went in.

The Raiders were three tries behind now and the Tigers were dominating this latter part of the first half. So it was very difficult for the Raiders to score. In fact the Tigers dominated by close to 12% overall for the half.  Not a game ending domination, that is generally around the 20% mark. But sufficient to be well ahead as the Tigers are one of the best teams at capitalising on any opportunity. In fact the Tigers are the one team that can frequently score against the dominating trend if there is any slight chink in the oppositions defence. And there were a few in the Raiders defensive line.

After half time, the Tigers still dominated and Benji Marshall took the opportunity from 30 metres out to pop over a field goal which meant the Raiders had to score more than three converted tries to get back into the game. This could have been the turning point and the Raiders were going to go downhill from here. But they responded well and a few minutes later scored a try of their own with a combination that will hopefully mature to become a pretty powerful one in the Cooper Cronk/Billy Slater mould al la Melbourne Storm. 35 metres out and Orford took the ball to the line, something he needs to do more often. Dugan came off his left shoulder and raced to the line to score under the posts.  This was to be the last punch the Raiders threw but it was the next try from the Tigers that really took the wind from the Raiders’ sails.

Farah got the ball from dummy half. He took one step to the right and passed to Fulton who fought the post to go over. The Raiders didn’t quite give up from here, they came back at the Tigers for a wee while but then that was it. The Tigers literally ran away with it with three tries to finish the game and in the process inflicting the Raiders second largest ever loss on their home ground.

The first of those three tries came from Heighington, who had another wonderful game. He went over after a long interchange inside the Raiders 10 metres. The second of these tries came when the Tigers played with their passes on the halfway for a while until Lui saw a huge gap and broke out of the line and passed to Fifita who went over. The last of the three tries came from a simple run two off the ruck. Dwyer went over virtually untouched. It was just all too easy.

I watched this game at the ground with Denise, Colleen and Simone. The general consensus was that the Raiders lost their heart at some point and didn’t fight to the end. In fact some of the crowd were booing at the end. Not a fair thing to do but perhaps a fair indication of the game.

The Tigers dominated the second half to nearly 20% and the score reflected that. Overall, they dominated to nearly 16% and the game also reflected that. The Tempo in this game was very reflective of the end result … a spanking for the Raiders.

I have been recording the game Tempo for the Raiders’ home games (less the Gold Coast Titans game … I was working unfortunately). This game against the Tigers seemed to reflect the average Tempo that I have recorded for the Raiders past home games. You can see this result in the diagram below. The games were against the Sharks (Round 1), the Broncos (Round 2), the Knights (Round 7) and the Tigers (Round 8).

The Raiders best efforts are in the lime green colour whilst their worst are in the red.  The average of the four home games I have attended is the blue line. I have also marked all the tries scored for and against the Raiders with the Raiders tries on the top line in lime green and the others in grey on the bottom line.

Overall the Raiders trend is to start the first half relatively slow and then to build toward some dominance later in the half. Overall, they tend to marginally dominate the first half by just on 3.00%. But that goes out the window in the second half where they get dominated by 7.00% plus.

You can also see where the Raiders, although they stay with the opposition for a while, tend to fade away in the latter part of the second half. This is also where their opponents tend to score a lot of tries, not particularly helped by the three tries scored by the Tigers today.

The big question is why that might be. I don’t have the answers, but it could be that the Raiders are less fit, they have bigger forwards hence they tire earlier, they lose heart once they are behind a bit and lack the fight. Perhaps it is morale. In battle, morale is a significant “combat multiplier” —  something that makes you better than the other side all other things being equal and morale in a footy game is all about attitude and working for your mates.

Whatever it is, the Raiders need to find it as one win from eight rounds is going to make for a very long season!

Today’s game? Eight tries to two was a good indication and shows if you dominate throughout the game and can capitalise on opportunities like the Tigers can, you will run up a cricket score.

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