Wests Tigers turn attention to crucial clash with Raiders after Ivan Cleary drama finally settled

Ivan Cleary's on the bus.

Both for at least the next two years as coach of the Wests Tigers, and their three-hour road trip for today's crucial NRL clash against Canberra.

If they can defy some shocking recent history against the Raiders, the bus route could also include the Tigers making a rare visit to the finals.

Sitting four points behind eighth-placed Brisbane in ninth spot, the Tigers have just four matches to close the gap and make their first finals appearance since 2011.

After reading out a two-minute statement vowing his intention to see out his contract on Saturday, Cleary refused to take questions about his coaching future.

However he was happy to be asked about why the Raiders' recent dominance over the Tigers will count for little at GIO Stadium this afternoon.

Canberra have not only won six of their past seven meetings dating back to 2014, but accumulated a gobsmacking 206-34 difference over their past four matches alone.

The Raiders are the only team in history to have won four straight matches against the same team by at least 35 points, including a 48-12 mauling in June.

The Tigers have never failed to score at least 12 points in five straight games against a team.

"We can't really comment too much about the past, but our one game this year was certainly an aberration on the rest of our season," Cleary said.

But the Tigers do have one record in their favour.

When Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah have combined to play against the Raiders, they are a perfect ten wins from ten games.

Without one or both, the Tigers have won just four from 14 games.

Marshall alone has a career 17-1 record against the Raiders, including a perfect nine from nine in the nation's capital.

And, with the team's finals hopes on a knife's edge, Cleary declared the veteran playmaker a certain starter after battling through a calf issue.

"You always want not only your experienced players but Benji's been a big part of our team throughout the year. So you definitely want those guys on board. It's a big boost for us," he said.

"He trained really strongly (on Friday). He's had calf problems, a few different ones throughout the year. He knows how to manage that. He wouldn't play if he wasn't right."

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 15:  David Nofoaluma of the Tigers celebrates with teammates after scoring a try during the round 18 NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Wests Tigers at UOW Jubilee Oval on July 15, 2018 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)
Robbie Farah. Source: Getty


'We've probably got our identity' - Cooper Cronk says Roosters peaking with NRL playoffs on the horizon

Cooper Cronk has declared the Sydney Roosters have discovered their "identity" as they show signs of peaking with September on the horizon.

After a lacklustre start to the year, the Sydney Roosters provisionally moved to the top of the NRL ladder with a gritty 18-14 win over fellow title contenders South Sydney on Friday.

After winning 11 of their last 13, they are arguably the form team of the competition with three games remaining.

With the arrival of Cronk and James Tedesco this year, many pundits believed that unless they win a premiership over the next two seasons, it would be considered an underachievement.

After feeling the weight of expectation early in the season, Cronk said they had discovered the brand of football they want to be playing.

"When you've got a football team that have got a very good coaching staff that work hard and try to get better every day and you've got a playing group that's willing to evolve, listen, change and train hard, you're always going to have a trajectory on the up," Cronk said.

"It's when you start throwing things out and changing things week-in-week out - and we probably were guilty of that early on - but definitely now we've probably got our identity."

Much has been made of the fact the Roosters are the best defensive team in the competition this year.

Cronk said the "identity" was about playing through the middle third and being able to attack from any point on the field.

"Whenever someone is carrying the football, it's about a lot of support, create momentum through the middle third," Cronk said.

"A lot of guys will say you need to spread the ball wide to (Blake) Ferguson or (Latrell) Mitchell or (Daniel) Tupou or whatever.

"But the essence of those guys putting the ball down in the corner means that Jake Friend is doing a role, there are ruck forwards pushing into space and the halves are in the right positions making decisions."

The Roosters have now lost just twice since being thumped 24-8 by St George Illawarra on Anzac Day back in April.

Following that game, Robinson declared that he and his coaching staff needed to reevaluate themselves and evolve.

Asked what had changed since then, Cronk said: "Put it this way now, wherever the ball is played, any position on the field, we have fluency and know what we can do from that position.

"We probably were too stagnant in terms of going in for one play and trying to set up for one shot.

"In the competition now the defences are so good you need to be able to have multiple shots at the opposition no matter the field position."

Cooper Cronk. Sydney Roosters v Vodafone Warriors, NRL Rugby League. Allianz Stadium, Sydney, Australia. 31st March 2018. Copyright Photo: David Neilson / www.photosport.nz
Cooper Cronk. Source: Photosport



Watch: Kiwis winger finishes last-gasp try to tie game before Panthers earn golden point win over Titans

Penrith have snatched a miraculous 17-16 golden point comeback win over Gold Coast to salvage victory in a dramatic week that began with the sacking of head coach Anthony Griffin.

Trailing 16-6, Penrith scored two tries in the final five minutes before Nathan Cleary missed what would have been the winning conversion after the fulltime siren.

Cleary's first field goal attempt in golden point flew just under the crossbar but he made sure of it on his second effort to complete their third-straight comeback victory.

The Panthers, under interim coach Cameron Ciraldo, looked impatient as the hosts built a 16-6 lead.

The NSW Origin halfback had a chance to win after the fulltime siren but missesda regulation conversion after Dallin Watene-Zelezniak streaked away for a final-minute try.

Cleary's try five minutes earlier have given them hope, but the Titans' defence held firm to seemingly see off another comeback until Penrith broke through with the final play of the game.

The last-gasp win keeps them on track with the top four and saved their blushes after what was day to forget before the final five minutes of regular time.

Anthony Don's 90-metre intercept try looked to have been enough for the Titans as the Panthers completed at just 65 percent in a game that was interrupted by errors.

In a passage that summed up proceedings, Tyrone Peachey caught a pass while standing behind the deadball line, only for them to find touch from the ensuing drop out and then knock on in the first tackle after the scrum.

Both sides probed with limited success, aside from early tries to Ryan James and Waqa Blake that left them deadlocked 6-6 at halftime.
Jack Hetherington was reported and sin-binned for a swinging arm to the jaw of AJ Brimson just before halftime.

Brimson shifted to fullback after a potentially season-ending wrist injury ruled Michael Gordon out with five-eighth Kane Elgey returning to the side for the first time since the seventh round.