Shannon Meyer reviews a tough, but thrilling arm wrestle between Parramatta and Canberra on the Gold Coast on Thursday night.
Tries: Dylan Brown (55) Maika Sivo (75)
Goals: Clint Gutherson (57)
Tries: Corey Harawira-Naera (44) Jordan Rapana (52)
Goals: Jarrod Croker (46, 54)
Player of the Year Points
3 pts – Jordan Rapana (Raiders)
2 pts – Joseph Tapine (Raiders)
1 pt – Isaiah Papali’i (Eels)
An interesting clash to kick off Round 19 with Canberra looking for a third straight win and keep alive a previously unlikely finals push. Parramatta were looking to consolidate their top four position.
After an initial arm wrestle for the first five minutes the first chance for Parramatta came when they were awarded a penalty on the Raiders line after Corey Harawira-Naera brushed Maika Sivo on the eyebrow. Thankfully with the crackdown being less important than a lockdown these days it was just a penalty. Doubling the disappointment of no points was that Sivo left the field for a HIA.
Parramatta went close to opening the scoring in the 10th minute when a great cross-field kick from Jakob Arthur was judged fumbled in-goal by Waqa Blake by the Bunker.
The arm wrestle continued throughout the first half, and both sides – but especially Canberra – looked up for a physical encounter with some solid contact. Good pressure kicking from both sides was also a feature, with Arthur certainly proving a solid replacement for the injured Mitchell Moses.
The deficit of points didn’t quite matter as we had a contest for a change on a Thursday after a number of one-sided games of late.
And there was some light entertainment with Parramatta going early on Retro Round with pushing in a scrum, and the sight of a trainer tying Harawira-Naera’s hair back with tape. That will be an eye-watering time post-match. Meanwhile it was 20 minutes in and not a point scored.
As the first half progressed the unforced errors grew, with neither side able to take advantage. Parramatta went closest and arguably looked like the team more likely to score but the last play options were not helping.
The toughness of the game was highlighted by Marata Niukore and Josh Papali’i both needing to leave the field late in the first half.
Jordan Rapana’s mixed night at fullback gave the Eels their best chance of the first half but the Canberra defense held firm and the first half was probably summed up best with the final play of the game being a massive, clean hit by Tapine on Arthur.
So it was 0-0 at the break, which people will be used to on a Thursday night, except the difference this time is both teams were zero. Parramatta looked the better in attack but Canberra’s defense looking impenetrable.
HALF-TIME: Parramatta Eels 0 Canberra Raiders 0
First signs of attacking life in the second half was from Canberra’s Rapana, who sliced through the middle and ran for 40 metres and was stopped 20 metres from the line. To finish the set Hudson Young showed a brilliant piece of footwork turning a poor, low pass into the perfect repeat set grubber.
That repeat set led to the first points of the night as Harawira-Naera charged through the Eels backline after lead up work from Sam Williams and Josh Hodgson the ball player on the Eels’ 20 metre line. The conversion made it 6-0 to the Raiders, with at least a 6/10 for Harawira-Naera’s post-try celebration.
The half time break didn’t dampen the physicality, especially the Raiders who were just as committed as the first minute of the game: Hodgson’s tackle on Sivo a prime example.
Canberra turned that good defense into attack and points as Rapana showed his speed by sprinting from dummy half proving as slippery as an Eel and crossing on the right. Lead up work play before laid down by Sebastian Kris after a typically hard charging run close to the line. The conversion made it 12-0.
Rapana’s Parramatta equivalent for excitement Blake Ferguson then stamped himself into the game in true style. After a small juggle while fielding a fifth tackle kick, the Eels winger charged 60 metres down the right, and his infield kick bounces perfectly for Dylan Brown who won the race for the ball. The conversion made it 12-6, and after 45 minutes of zero points we had no seen three tries in 10 minutes. Good stuff from Ferguson on his return to the side giving himself a chance of extending his NRL career.
Rapana showed some more magic not long after with his save of an attempted 40-20 from Eels hooker Reed Mahoney.
With 15 minutes or so remaining the game was beginning to open up, and Parramatta had plenty of ball and territory to take advantage but we not able to. Thankfully the added attack didn’t stop some ferocious defense even with most of the game being played.
Parramatta came close again with eight minutes to play after Brown won the contest at a last tackle bomb, his offload whilst on his back found Nathan Brown in support who dropped in cold.
They went even closer with four minutes to go as it looked like Sivo had crossed in the corner and was sent to the Bunker as a try. The ball had gone to the Eels winger courtesy of Waqa Blake winning the kick contest and through the hands of Isaiah Papali’i and Clint Gutherson. The try took some time for the video officials to decide but ultimately was decided in the Eels’ favour, though question/s remained about Brown being offside from the original kick.
This made the score 12-10 and a sideline conversion was on offer to level the game but it missed and three minutes were left to find a winner.
Helped by a Set Restart Parramatta had all the ball and had every chance to steal the game from the Raiders in the final minutes. And steal the game they almost did.
With six seconds remaining the Eels went left and Sivo was steaming for the corner and looked certain to score when Rapana came out of nowhere to slam into the Eels’ winger with a tackle that looked sort of looked like a shoulder charge but was actually a hip charge, which is technically not illegal. The Bunker ruled No Try and Canberra had themselves a third straight win and a temporary spot inside the top eight.
It was a high quality game of rugby league and a rare tight game. Lots of tough defense and big hits. Some moments of attacking brilliance with some controversy thrown in at the end. Plenty for everyone and a great way to start Round 19.
FULL-TIME: HALF-TIME: Parramatta Eels 10 Canberra Raiders 12
Josh Papalii (Raiders) – failed HIA
Marata Niukore (Eels) – knee
Match Review Committee
to be advised