With both premiership contenders coming off losses last weekend the Parramatta Eels and Canberra Raiders were looking to bounce back to the winner’s circle.
Coming into this game, both clubs had played each other 58 times over the 38-year period and each team had accrued 1193 points.
A close game was always on the cards if history was to go by.
There was going to be plenty of good match ups right across the park in this encounter and it was a tense and physical battle early on to back this up.
Josh Papalii and Junior Paulo were very strong for their respective clubs early on trying to get momentum going for their team.
The Raiders were not making life very easy for themselves in the early exchanges due to a number of unforced errors coming out of their own end.
The Eels drew first blood in the 4th minute through a try to Ryan Matterson.
Mitchell Moses created space through some decoy runners who got the ball out to Clint Gutherson.
An easy draw and pass put Matterson over for the first try of the match.
Moses converted the try for a 6-0 lead for the Eels.
Paulo’s front row partner Reagan Campbell-Gillard was making plenty of metres up front to help the Eels gain good field position.
It could have been further disaster for the Raiders 4 minutes later if it wasn’t for a Moses knock on from his kick he tried to retrieve.
Marata Niukore who was filling in for the suspended Nathan Brown was denied a second Eels try by the bunker.
The bunker was busy early on, again denying the Eels of a 4-pointer due to a Dylan Brown knock on with 15 minutes on the clock.
With 15 minutes gone in the game, the Raiders still hadn’t been able to attack Parramatta’s 20m zone.
Moses’ great passing game and quickness around the field was creating problems for the Raiders.
Papalii who was very strong and busy early on got a reward in the 18th minute to score a try untouched.
A forward pass earlier on put pressure on Parramatta’s defence.
From a quick play the ball not long after and a clever pass by Josh Hodgson, the Raiders were on the scoreboard.
Jarrod Croker kicked the easy conversion to tie the game up at 6-all.
This was Canberra’s first attacking opportunity in Parramatta’s attacking 20m area so far in the game.
Papalii who was Canberra’s best forward early on went off for a head injury assessment.
The Raiders were now starting to get on top due to the Eels starting to make errors and putting themselves under pressure.
30 minutes in and after some classy play by Nick Cotric on the wing, Englishman Elliott Whitehead scored for the Green Machine.
A kick in-field by Cotric was fielded nicely by Jack Wighton who drew and passed for Whitehead cross.
Jarrod Croker again slotted the conversion to take the Raiders out to a 12-6 lead.
3 minutes later, Maika Sivo had a try disallowed due to a Shaun Lane knock on.
Not long after, Matterson was penalised for his tackle on Corey Horsburgh.
From this, Horsburgh left the ground with an ankle injury but not before having plenty to say to Matterson and the crowd on his way off.
Just a minute later, Parramatta’s chief playmaker Moses went down with a calf injury.
Papalii returned to the field for the Raiders after passing his head injury assessment.
On the stroke of half-time, the Eels received a penalty due to a high tackle on Daniel Alvaro.
Hodgson was placed on report for this tackle.
Gutherson who was filling in with the kicking duties due to Moses’ injury slotted the penalty goal for the Raiders to take a 12-8 lead into half-time.
Jordan Rapana wasthen penalised for a high tackle on Sivo.
From the next set, interchange forward Ray Stone crossed for his first NRL try.
He ran a great line off a perfect pass by Reed Mahoney.
Gutherson converted the easy conversion for the Eels to take back the lead 14-12.
The first 20 minutes of the second half was following the same trend of the first half with heavy collisions between both teams and going set for set.
The Eels were now on a roll with Michael Jennings crossing for the Eels yet again.
Gutherson started the play who got the ball to Lane.
A great around the corner pass give Jennings his 151st NRL try.
Gutherson again slotted the conversion for the Eels to take the biggest lead of the game. 20-12.
5 minutes later, Sivo was over in the corner.
This came from the pressure the Eels were putting on the Raiders from a strip call earlier in the set.
Gutherson was again was in the thick of the action who delivered a great ball to Sivo who went over untouched in the corner.
Sivo crossed for his 26th try in his 32nd NRL game.
The slick play started from a great long ball from Mahoney. Gutherson was unsuccessful with his conversion attempt. 24-12 to the Eels.
The Raiders were not going to give in and George Williams delivered a pin point kick for Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad to score close to the posts with only 5 minutes remaining on the clock.
This was Williams 5th try assist via a kick this season and 7th overall for the Raiders.
Croker again slotted the conversion to bring the game back to a converted try gap. 24-18 to the Eels.
From the kick off and on tackle two, the Raiders shifted the ball wide to Whitehead who was only 30 metres out from their own line.
A great show and go put Whitehead into open space.
Like all good fullbacks do, Nicoll-Klokstad was able to support Whitehead.
Croker converted the try to have the game all tied up at 24-all and to set up a grandstand finish.
This was the score after 80 minutes.
The statistics for golden point favoured the Raiders.
Canberra had won 10 of 18 and Parramatta had recorded 4 out of 15 matches.
Sivo was placed on report within 2 minutes of Golden Point for a high tackle.
Wighton missed the first attempt at field goal 3 minutes in.
Clever play by Gutherson resulted in the Eels getting a 20m restart from the missed field goal attempt.
Parramatta were able to get up the other end of the field and with plenty of time to slot the 1 pointer Gutherson missed his attempt as well.
An ambitious Williams tried to get the win for the Raiders with a field goal from 50m out but it fell way short.
Moving into the second stanza of golden point Wighton knocked the ball on from trying to retrieve the ball to put the Eels in perfect field position.
Cool as a cucumber, Gutherson slotted the match-winning field goal to give the Eels a 25-24 win in a very entertaining game.
This continues the Raiders inconsistent form during this season.
“With Moses going off injured, it certainly made life harder for the Eels but “a win is a win at this time of the year” Gutherson said.
“Our middle forwards really stood up tonight and were outstanding especially when Moses went off injured” Gutherson continued.
One of the middle forwards who certainly lifted his team was Regan Campbell-Gillard.
His form this year after changing clubs from the Penrith Panthers has been outstanding.
“It is a really confident environment to play in” Campbell-Gillard said.
“This is certainly showing in his form at the moment.”
Despite the loss, Raiders coach Ricky Stuart praised his side’s never-say-die attitude.
“I’ll never debate that they’ll never give in, I’ve said that for years,” Stuart said.
“But you can never win a game in the first half but you can lose them.”
NRL News Player of the Game
3 – Clint Gutherson
2 – Reed Mahoney
1 – George Williams