A ripping Jordan Rapana try close to fulltime helped Canberra to a scrappy 22-16 NRL win over Parramatta which ended a three-game slide for the Raiders.
Scores were locked at 16-16 on Saturday night, before Rapana produced one of his trademark diving efforts in a 73rd-minute right-side shift.
The play ensured captain Jarrod Croker celebrated his 200th-game milestone with a win, coach Ricky Stuart later revealing he had sent out a late message of inspiration for the team.
“We sent a message on there after we scored that try with seven-eight minutes to go,” Stuart said. ‘If we can’t do this now for our captain, we’re a shallow bunch’. But I know they’re not, and I know that was the inspiration on the back end of that game.”
In front of an ANZ Stadium crowd of 10,074, the victory also ruined Mitchell Moses’ first appearance as an Eel after his storied mid-week move from the Wests Tigers.
Rushed immediately into halfback, Moses missed a game-high six tackles as he was given a torrid night by Josh Papalii, and came up with some poor decisions on last-tackle plays.
Papalii was arguably the Raiders’ best on his return from a club-imposed one-game ban for drink-driving, running 148 metres, busting five tackles and offloading three times.
Eels coach Brad Arthur said it was evident the team had had little preparation with Moses.
“Couple of wrong kick options but, other than that, he’s had two training sessions with us so it’s going to take a bit of time,” Arthur said.
The defeat for the clunky Eels’ outfit was compounded by injuries to Michael Jennings (quad) and Nathan Brown (ribs), who was taken to hospital as a precaution.
Level on two tries apiece at halftime, the Eels took the lead for the first time with Siosaia Vave’s 48th-minute try, although the Raiders responded quickly through Blake Austin.
The match seemed destined for golden point before Rapana’s aerial heroics, breathing life into a campaign that looked on shaky ground after their losing run.
In a mostly docile first half, the Raiders appeared set to stroll away with an easy win when Nick Cotric and Joey Leilua crossed from set pieces for a 10-0 lead by the 20th minute.
But back-to-back tries to Manu Ma’u and Jennings within five minutes meant the game was tied at the break.
Ma’u claimed a lucky ricochet off his own grubber to score his team’s first points of the night, before Jennings finished off a tackle-busting run by Semi Radradra for their second.