Raiders win big over Tigers, allow Titans into NRL playoffs

BY foxsports • September 4, 2016

SYDNEY (AP) The Canberra Raiders did Gold Coast a big favor on Sunday, beating the Wests Tigers 52-10 to allow the Titans to claim the eighth and final playoff spot in the National Rugby League.

The Titans, leading Wests by a competition point, lost 32-16 to defending champions North Queensland on Saturday and had to rely on the Tigers losing to sneak into eighth.

The Raiders, who moved past Cronulla and into second place with the win, led 30-4 at halftime, quickly putting the Gold Coast players into celebration mode.

The playoff picture next weekend has first-place Melbourne hosting fourth-place North Queensland in one qualifying final, with Canberra at home against Cronulla in the other, both likely on Saturday.

The winner of those matches get a week's rest before the preliminary finals, while the losers, under the ''second-chance'' NRL playoff system for the top four teams, play the winners of the elimination finals involving teams placed fifth to eighth.

Those elimination matches will see the fifth-place Brisbane play Gold Coast, most likely on Friday in Brisbane, and Canterbury take on Penrith on Sunday.

Penrith could overtake Canterbury for sixth and host that elimination final if they beat Manly later Sunday.

It is the first time that all three Queensland state teams - the Cowboys, Broncos and Titans - have made the playoffs in the same year.

Melbourne defeated Cronulla 26-6 on Saturday to clinch the minor premiership. The Storm went into the match a point ahead of the Sharks, and never looked like surrendering first place after leading 10-2 at halftime.

The Storm has won both matches against the Cowboys this year, but captain Cameron Smith expected a much tougher encounter in the playoffs.

''This is finals, and these guys are the reigning premiers so they know how to play these big games,'' Smith said. ''In recent years, they've had a pretty good record down in Melbourne, and when you win a competition you don't fear any team or any venue.''

The four-week playoff schedule concludes on Sunday, Oct. 2 with the grand final at Sydney's Olympic stadium.