Parramatta Eels suffered their first loss of the season last week against the reigning premiers and they were set for another big test against last year's runners-up. With the Raiders dropping the ball in the opening set of six, the signs weren't good early for the Green Machine, but they managed to take the game into golden point extra time only to see the Eels prevail 25-24 thanks to a Clint Gutherson field goal.
Into the fifth minute of the game the Eels spread the ball from 20 metres out for Ryan Matterson to crash over for the first try. Mitchell Moses converted it from out wide to give the home team an early 6-0 lead.
Four minutes later Moses chased his own kick through and jumped above the defence to tap it down for Oregon Kaufusi who raced over for what looked like a try. The bunker supported the on field call of a knock-on by Moses, though multiple replays were inconclusive.
Fifteen minutes into the first half and another Eels try was overruled by the bunker after Dylan Brown was deemed to have knocked the ball on in the lead up to Waqa Blake crossing out wide.
There were some massive collisions in the forwards with Raiders lock Corey Horsburgh copping a particularly heavy knock. The hit seemed to fire the Raiders up and it wasn't long before they struck back. Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson took a couple of steps out of dummy-half under the Eels posts, dummied to Horsburgh and passed to Josh Papalii who strolled over untouched. Jarrod Croker converted to level the scores 6-6.
The Eels seemed rattled by the lime green onslaught. From a perfect 10 from 10 completions, they messed up three of their next four possessions.
With ten minutes remaining in the first half, a highly questionable pass from Croker led to a break and an infield kick by Raiders winger Nick Cotric. The kick landed perfectly on the chest of Elliott Whitehead who crossed for their second try of the night. Gavin Badger, the veteran referee running the touchline, was perfectly aligned to make a call on the Croker pass and he allowed play to continue. The conversion took the Raiders to a 12-6 lead.
Three minutes later the Eels chased through on another Moses high kick. A scramble for the ball saw Maika Sivo cross out wide. Replays showed that there was a knock on by Shaun Lane and the Eels had another try disallowed.
Horsburgh's rough night continued as he was crunched high in a Matterson tackle. Matterson's full weight around his shoulders and another defender around his legs resulted in a twisted ankle and a visibly upset Horsburgh came up firing. After threatening Matterson's personal safety, he was taken from the field for treatment, giving the Eels fans a single-fingered salute on the way.
In the background, alarmingly for the Eels, Moses limped from the field. He was later seen icing his left calf muscle and crucially would take no further part in the game.
The Raiders very nearly crossed again before the break, only for Dylan Brown to knock down the final pass. With only seconds remaining in the half, Gutherson stepped up to kick a penalty goal which took the halftime score to 12-8 in the Raiders' favour.
Early after oranges, the Raiders had a try disallowed after the touch judge ruled that a floating pass was thrown forward. Replays of that call were also inconclusive, but it seemed to be fair, considering Croker's first-half effort.
Ten minutes into the second half, Sivo looked set to cross in the corner, but Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, possibly learning from what he saw happen to James Tedesco a week earlier, went low and stopped the flying winger dead. A couple of tackles later and the ball was in Sivo's hands again and he fended Jordan Rapana's mouth guard out of his face. Rapana responded with a sneaky uppercut in the tackle.
Not long after Reed Mahoney threw a beautiful flat pass out of dummy-half, sending Raymond Stone over for his first NRL try. The defence fooled by the looming charge of Reagan Campbell-Gillard. Gutherson converted to put the Eels back in front 14-12.
With fifteen left in the game, despite being without their star playmaker, the Eels were gaining the ascendancy. With the Raiders on the back foot, Gutherson threw a sharp pass to a charging Lane who found Michael Jennings for another Eels try. Gutherson added the two points to take the lead out to 20-12.
Gutherson was taking it upon himself to take up the slack left by the loss of Moses. With eleven minutes remaining he threw a double cut-out pass on the Raiders' ten metre line to find Sivo's chest. He dived over in the corner to take the score to 24-12.
With time rapidly running out for Canberra, George Williams ran to the line before chipping the ball perfectly for Nicoll-Klokstad, who took the ball on the run to score the Raiders' third try. Croker converted to set up a grandstand finish with the Eels clinging to a 24-18 lead.
From the restart the Raiders spread the ball to their left and Whitehead threw a dummy to dismiss Blake and take off downfield. Nicoll-Klokstad loomed up in support and out-sprinted Brown to the line. Croker kicked the pressure conversion to level the scores at 24-24 with 90 seconds remaining.
The fulltime siren sounded with Gutherson being dragged into touch after making a breakdown the left hand side. The thriller headed into golden point extra time.
After the game Raiders coach Ricky Stuart said his team didn't deserve to make it into golden point extra time.
"We didn't deserve to be in that position, it's amazing that we even got back to that scoreline," Stuart said.
"You can never win a game of football in the first half but you can lose one. We keep making it hard on ourselves with poor football and that was especially so in the first half.
"We looked real tired in that middle patch of the second half... we have no one to blame but ourselves.
"We're not the team we were last year, we will never be that team again, so you can put that to rest, we have to be the best team we can be today... it's not panic stations yet."
Two minutes into extra time Gutherson had the first chance at a field goal, but under pressure was only able to put up a bomb. It landed on the Raiders try line, and bounced high over Gutherson's head as he slipped over.
The Raiders had the ball, worked their way downfield and Jack Wighton took a snap from long range. Gutherson cleverly caught the ball with an outstretched leg on the try line, giving the Eels a seven tackle set. They worked their way downfield and Gutherson's field goal attempt flew high and wide. The first half of extra time ended after Williams' attempt at field goal from 50 metres out fell well short.
Into the second term of golden point extra time the Eels had the first shot and this time Gurtherson didn't miss. He kicked the first field goal of his career to break the deadlock and send the Eels back to the top of the NRL ladder.
The match of the round did not disappoint.