The Parramatta Eels have gone down to the Canberra Raiders in their NRL Telstra Premiership Round 11 clash at ANZ Stadium.
The two sides ran out in front of the 10,074 crowd in attendace, sporting beanies in support of Beanies for Brain Cancer and the Mark Hughes Foundation.
The Blue and Gold welcomed mid-season signing Mitchell Moses into the side at halfback with fullback Bevan French returning from injury, seeing Will Smith drop out of the side.
Canberra got off to a strong start with winger Nick Cotric crossing in the left corner in the 4th minute. Jarrod Croker was unable to convert and the Raiders led 4-0.
The Eels then exerted a little pressure of their own after Jordan Rapana fumbled the ball 45 metres from his own line but they were unable to make the Raiders pay.
Canberra then capitalised on an Eels error with centre Joey Leilua crashing over on the right edge off a flat ball from hooker Josh Hodgson. Jarrod Croker’s successful conversion gave the Raiders a 10-0 lead after 19 minutes.
Parramatta then lost hard-working lock Nathan Brown to a rib injury, forcing an early change in the back-row.
The Raiders established plenty of dominance in the middle third of the field until the Eels began an enterprising passage of play.
Going down their left edge, Manu Ma’u grubbered for his outside backs only for Jordan Rapana to attempt to gather the kick. The Raiders flyer was unable to reel the ball in allowing Parramatta co-captain Beau Scott to tap the ball back to Ma’u who picked up the loose ball and scored in the left corner.
Clint Gutherson was unable to convert but the Eels were back in the match at 10-4 with six minutes left in the half.
In the 38th minute Blue and Gold centre Michael Jennings scored after some amazing work from Semi Radradra. The flying Fijian had to scoop up a Moses pass on the half volley and proceeded to bounce away from two Canberra defenders before accelerating through a half gap and finding a flying Jennings to cross 20 metres to the left of the uprights.
Gutherson’s conversion brought the scores level to send both sides to the sheds at half-time with the score at 10-all.
The Eels were invited down the Raiders’ end in the 42nd minute after Jack Wighton spilt a Moses bomb under the pressure of Clint Gutherson.
The Blue and Gold though were unable to cash in on their field position with Siosaia Vave spilling the ball close to the line.
Canberra tried to respond to the Eels’ strong second half start when they made a bust up the middle. They were unable to keep control of the ball and the Blue and Gold worked their way back down to the Raiders’ goal line.
With 48 minutes gone Vave made amends for his error earlier in the half when he crashed over from short range off a Kaysa Pritchard pass to give the Eels a 16-10 lead.
The Eels then began making in-roads through the middle of the field – running deep into the Raiders’ half in consecutive sets and dishing out some bruising defence.
The Raiders then responded in the 55th minute through Blake Austin who was the beneficiary of some good lead up work from Jarrod Croker. The Canberra captain converted and the score was level at 16-16.
Semi Radradra was in a mood and another powerful run from the big man earned the Eels a penalty with 19 minutes to go to give the Eels good field position and a chance to go ahead again.
The Eels almost surged ahead again in the 67th minute when Jennings broke away down the left edge and kicked infield for Bevan French only for the Eels fullback to be unable to ground the ball due to the attention of Jordan Rapana.
Jennings was then helped from the field with a leg injury forcing a reshuffle in the Eels backline that saw Manu Ma’u shifted to left centre.
Canberra thought they were the ones to then take the lead in the 68th minute after an Aidan Sezer bomb wasn’t cleaned up and Rapana crossed out wide only for the play to be called back due to Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson being offside.
The Raiders then went ahead after a long ball from Blake Austin put Jordan Rapana over in the right corner. Croker’s sideline conversion gave Canberra a 22-16 lead with six minutes to go.
Parramatta proceeded to throw everything they had at the Raiders in the dying minutes but were unable to cross for a final try, going down 22-16.
Parramatta Eels 16 (Tries: Ma’u, Jennings, Vave. Goals: Gutherson 2/3.)
Canberra Raiders 22 (Tries: Leilua, Cotric, Austin, Rapana. Goals: Croker 3/4.)