The respective result could have been a lot different if the Parramatta Eels were able to hold onto the ball and be smart with their play but instead, it is the Canberra Raiders coming away with a win, taking it out 30-22 at GIO Stadium.
The Eels fortunes did not fare well even prior to kick-off with Tepai Moeroa ruled out forcing a reshuffle that saw Beau Scott move to the bench and Nathan Brown starting at lock.
The Raiders, looking to dominate early, did not take long to score as on the back of a penalty, Aidan Sezer took the line on, placed a deft kick through the defensive line and a try was scored through back-rower Iosia Soliola.
The Raiders enjoyed a remarkable 70% of possession early on in the game and almost had a second try soon after through Jordan Rapana but he put a hand over the touchline to deny him a four-pointer.
With chances of their own in that time, the Eels failed to capitalise but did eventually score, as the Eels linked up well before a one-handed pass back on the inside by Brad Takairangi found Bevan French who scored.
That joy was short-lived, though, as the duo known as Leipana – Joey Leilua and Jordan Rapana – combined on the right flank, as Rapana tip-toed down the sideline to score before Leilua got a try of his own, holding off Semi Radradra.
The Raiders then scored again as centre Jarrod Croker took advantage of a Josh Hodgson grubber to score his 100th club try, just the third Raider to do so.
Trailing 22-6 at the start of the second half, the Eels burst out of the blocks with Corey Norman kicking a 40/20 before some elusive play from French led to a maiden Eels try for winger Josh Hoffman, followed by a dummy half try from Kaysa Pritchard.
In the end, it was not to be for the Eels, as the comeback was short-lived with a brilliant individual effort by winger Nick Cotric, who cut back inside, beat several defenders and scored under the posts.
There were some positives for the Eels to take out of the game but their fluctuations during the game leading to poor execution is something coach Brad Arthur knows has to improve.
“I thought we played well for 60 minutes; that 20-minute period killed us,” Arthur said of the period just prior to half-time.
“We clawed our way back to 6-all with only 35 per cent of possession and from that next set we got a kick away but we just needed to go set for set.
“From there I think they had four or five sets in a row and we just lacked a bit of urgency on a couple of loose balls.”
Arthur admits that he put the test to the players at the half-time break and was pleased with how they responded.
“I challenged the boys at half-time and they responded really well,” Arthur said.
“I think we won the second half but you’ve got to win every half and you’ve got to be in the game for the 80 minutes.”
Despite their win, Raiders coach Ricky Stuart knows his side still have to improve and must work harder for their wins, knowing they will not blow teams off the park anymore.
“We won’t win as many games by the amount of points as we did last year. Teams are ready for us now,” Stuart said after his side’s second win of the season.
“We surprised a few people [last year], we surprised a few people who didn’t even play the game, we surprised a lot of our opposition, the only people we didn’t surprise was us.
“If I want to be the same football team as last year I’m kidding myself. We have to get better, we have to improve, we need to improve in certain areas.”
Player of the Game:
3. Jordan Rapana
2. Siosaia Vave
- Joey Leilua
Canberra Raiders 30 (Sia Soliola, Blake Austin, Joey Leilua, Jarrod Croker, Nick Cotric tries; Jarrod Croker 5 goals) def. Parramatta Eels 18 (Bevan French, Josh Hoffman, Kaysa Pritchard tries; Clint Gutherson 3 goals) at GIO Stadium. Crowd: 17,653. Half-time: Raiders 22-6. Holden Cup: Raiders 42-22.