The Parramatta Eels have suffered a 30-18 defeat to the Canberra Raiders at GIO Stadium tonight, despite a valiant second half fight back by the Blue and Gold in front of 17,653 fans in the nation’s capital.
Trailing by 16 points heading into the half time sheds, the Eels scored two early second half tries to claw their way back into the clash, but it wasn’t enough as the home side came away twelve point victors.
The Eels were welcomed to GIO Stadium with the home side’s traditional Viking clap, and the Blue & Gold were put under pressure early.
Off the back off a penalty on the half way line, which gifted the home side field position, the Raiders probed in their first attacking set. The early opportunity was converted when forward Sia Soliola won the race to a bouncing ball to plant it to the right of the posts and open the scoring with a converted try.
The pressure continued to mount, when the Eels failed to complete their set with their next possession, losing the ball in their own half.
A repeat set was earnt by the home side when fullback Bevan French was pinned in goal, and it was nearly converted into further points. An offload from centre Joey Leilua found Jordan Rapana diving for the line but a tackle by Semi Radradra forced him into touch, denying the winger a four pointer.
The opening quarter of the match saw the Eels defence continued to be tested, and it took another desperate tackle on the line from French to pull down Croker at the line after he received an offload from Nick Cotric.
The opening 20 minutes of defence looked to be rewarded when the Eels went on the attack, having good field position for the first time in the clash.
As the ball spread to the left, halfback Corey Norman threw a long cut out ball to find centre Michael Jennings with room to move. The centre stepped back on the inside with Radradra in support, but he was pulled down close to the line. The ball spread quickly to the right, and after an interchange of passes between Clint Gutherson, Brad Takairangi it found Norman in space but a forward pass was ruled with the line wide open.
However the Eels first points of the game came shortly after, with a string of passes down the right edge. The ball travelled through the hands of Pritchard, Gutherson, and skilful hands from Nathan Brown found Takairangi in space before offloading to French to cross for a converted try.
However the Raiders were quick to regain their lead.
Winger Rapana was put into space by Leilua, and as he tiptoed down the sideline, he passed back on the inside to Blake Austin to score under the posts.
The Raiders were again on the attack, after a bust down their left edge. A cross field kick found Rapana offloading to Leilua, before he grubbed in behind the line and won the contest to plant the ball for the home side’s third try of the afternoon.
The Raiders were at their attacking best at home, and their fourth try of the half came through their captain. Close to the line, Sezer stepped back on the inside and grubbered in behind the ruck and Croker won the race to the ball.
The centre crossing for his 100th try in the NRL and kicking his third conversion of the afternoon with the Raiders heading to the sheds with a 22-6 lead.
The Eels were looking to be the first to score in the second half, and they crossed through centre Michael Jennings in the 48th minute of the clash.
In the lead up, the Raiders were pinning the Eels down in their own end and it took a forty-twenty from Norman to put the Blue & Gold into attacking opportunity.
The Eels had a few repeat sets on their Raiders line, as the home side opted to give away penalty after penalty, and as the ball spread to the left, French stepped and brushed past the defence before offloading to Michael Jennings in support to cross over out wide.
The momentum was in favour of the Eels, and after a handful of strong runs by interchange forward Siosaia Vave, the Eels found themselves on the attack.
Hooker Kaysa Pritchard found the Raiders defence napping on the line, and he took full advantage by dummying and diving over to score to the right of the posts, with Gutherson knocking over the conversion to close the score 22-18.
As the game entered the final 15 minutes of the clash, the Eels were till searching for a breakthrough, and the side began to kick long and to the corners, applying pressure with their brutal defence.
But a repeat set of six to the home side saw the Raiders roll down field before an individual effort from winger Nick Cotric swung the momentum back to the home side. Scooping the ball up from dummy half, Cotric swerved his way across the field, straightened through the line and stepped French to score a converted try.
A penalty to the Raiders with five minutes remaining on the clock extended their lead to 12 points.
The Eels looked to have crossed late when halfback Corey Norman forced his way over the line, but the on field decision of try was overturned by the bunker as the score remained unchanged, with the Eels going down to the Raiders, 30-16.
Parramatta Eels 18 (Tries: Bevan French, Michael Jennings, Kaysa Pritchard; Goals: Clint Gutherson 3/3)
Canberra Raiders 30 (Tries: Sia Soliola, Blake Austin, Joey Leilua, Jarrod Croker, Nick Cotric; Goals: Jarrod Croker 4/5; Penalty: Jarrod Croker 1/1)