Canberra continued their impressive start to season 2019 with a dominant performance against the Parramatta Eels winning 19-0 in front of a big crowd at GIO Stadium in Canberra.
Canberra started the game on top and remained there for the entire game as they dominated both possession and field position throughout. Despite their early dominance their attack struggled to breach the brave Eels’ defence who continued to turn away the Green Machine until the 27th minute, where Josh Papalii beat a couple of tired defenders to cross for the first try of the game and give the Raiders a 6-0 lead.
A penalty goal to Raiders’ captain Jarrod Croker was the only addition to the score before halftime as the Raiders took a 8-0 lead to the break, the second half started much like the first with Canberra’s energy and enthusiasm suffocating the Eels who struggle for any fluency in attack. Things were made worse for the Blue and Gold side as their best player this season Blake Ferguson has to leave the field with what seemed to be a rib injury, Ferguson had been in the wars after also suffering a broken nose in the first half.
Canberra continued to control the game and were finally rewarded when English forward Elliot Whitehead scored after using his ‘soccer skills’ to toe the ball ahead after Josh Hodgson had put through a grubber kick, Whitehead regathered his own kick to score and give the Raiders a 12-0 lead. Parramatta continued to try hard but it wasn’t their night, another Canberra try this time to Jack Wighton sealed the match for Canberra before a Sam Williams field goal put the icing on the cake.
Last year Canberra were the 2nd best attacking side in the competition, not bad considering they missed the finals, but what that showed is that their defence was poor and was what eventually cost them in 2018. But the Raiders have clearly worked on their defence in the off season which has shown dividends so far this year, the 19-0 win was their second shut-out of the season and their first at home since 2013. Their defence has only leaked 44 points so far this season which leaves them first in that department, a far cry from the side last year who leaked points at will.
Stats are Facts
Statistics are sometimes misleading in Rugby League but in this game the stat sheet was a true indication of what transpired on the field, Canberra dominated every stat from the get go and it was a true reflection of what was happening on the field. The most telling stat was field territory which throughout the opening stages of the game Canberra were dominating with 70% of the match being played in the Eels half. The defensive work load Parramatta had to do ended up taking it’s toll as the errors started piling up leaving Brad Arthur’s side with a completion rate of just over 50%.
The addition of Blake Ferguson has been so far an astute purchase by the Eels as the former Origin and Test winger has been the Eels best player to date. But Blake had a rough night and may now being looking at the stint on the sideline after suffering a broken nose and suspected broken rib. Ferguson had been talked up as a possible replacement for Blues injured winger Tom Trbojevic but will now be racing the clock to be back in time, the Eels will also miss his presence especially his run metres which were down this match due to the injuries.
What a difference a year makes
What a difference a year makes especially for the Canberra Raiders who are celebrating their best start to a season in 14 years, but rewind to this time last year they’d just broken through for their first win after suffering through the first month of the season without a win. Much has been made about their roster changes but it’s the mindset change that has been the biggest difference for Canberra, the good news for fans as well is that there is still a lot of improvement left in this side.
Canberra Raiders 19
Tries: Papalii, Whitehead, Wighton
Goals: Croker 3/4
Drop Goals: Williams
Parramatta Eels 0
Drop Goals: n/a
Raiders: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 2. Nick Cotric, 3. Jarrod Croker, 4. Joseph Leilua, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Jack Wighton, 7. Sam Williams, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Josh Hodgson, 10. Dunamis Lui, 11. John Bateman, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Ryan Sutton, 14. Siliva Havili, 15. Hudson Young, 16. Iosia Soliola, 17. Joseph Tapine
Eels: 1. Clinton Gutherson, 2. Maika Sivo, 3. Michael Jennings, 4. Brad Takairangi, 5. Blake Ferguson, 6. Jaeman Salmon, 7. Mitchell Moses, 8. Daniel Alvaro, 9. Reed Mahoney, 10. Junior Paulo, 11. Shaun Lane, 12. Marata Niukore, 13. Repai Moeroa, 14. Peni Terepo, 15. Tim Mannah, 16. Kane Evans, 18. David Gower