The Canberra Raiders have pulled off a dramatic late escape to avoid another horrendous defeat, scoring late to avert disaster against the Newcastle Knights.
A scintillating display from five-eighth Dylan Brown helped Parramatta down Canberra 28-20 at GIO Stadium on Sunday evening.
Brown’s borderline flawless display saw him finish with 198 metres, three line breaks and two tries, the second of which effectively iced the game 14 minutes from time.
There were only two tries in the second half and the 21-year-old had his mits all over each, first breaking the line for Canberra local Bailey Simonsson to score in the corner and put his side ahead 22-20.
But they were home when Brown crossed for his second, benefiting from a huge Shaun Lane line break after their defence absorbed plenty from the Raiders.
Eels’ coach Brad Arthur acknowledged the youngster’s brilliant outing as exactly what he’s capable of.
“That’s Dyl, he’s a competitor, he competes and scraps and fights for everything, he’s a tough kid,” he said.
“The strength is his running game and when our team provides momentum he can he can carry off the back of it … he can’t do that unless the forwards are rolling the sleeves up.”
Asked what he made of his usually-inconsistent side winning back-to-back games for the first time since round five, Arthur said he was simply impressed they’d stood up to a Raiders’ barrage and only conceded two points in the second half.
“I’m not worried about winning two matches in a row, I’m more worried about our second-half defence … (it) was excellent,” he said.
“We were courageous on our tryline, I don’t think we had any football down our end of the field … defensively the desperation was outstanding.”
The win keeps the Eels firmly in the NRL’s top-four hunt, moving to 8-4 for the campaign to stay level with third-placed North Queensland.
Canberra had proved up for the fight and led 18-16, with two tries for Seb Kris and a clever dummy-half dive from captain Elliott Whithead getting them in front.
Kris’ second was particularly fortuitous, Eels’ fullback Clint Gutherson simply gifteing the Raiders the lead by inexcusably dropping a Jack Wighton bomb for Kris to gather.
Canberra had made the most of limited opportunities earlier, leading despite missing 25 tackles compared with Parramatta’s nine.
Isaiah Papali’i continued his strong form with 143m, while Junior Paulo (142m) and Ryan Matterson (155m) also stayed hot.
The defeat snapped Canberra’s winning streak at three games, and they face another stern test next weekend with the Sydney Roosters headed to town.
But the fact his side had stuck strong and taken it up to one of the NRL’s genuine contenders encouraged Canberra coach Ricky Stuart his side was on the right path.
“As disappointed as we are to lose, that was a good game of football that went from end to end and whenever they turn up with that type of effort, we just keep developing into the team we want to get to,” he told reporters.
“A couple of line breaks here and there in the second half turned it … we’re showing we can match it with them and we’re certainly not intimidated by any team.
“If we can hold on to some combinations now … we keep those combinations and get some cohesion we’ll just naturally keep improving as a football team.”
It was another banner afternoon for the Raiders’ props, with Josh Papali’i and Joe Tapine combining for 384m and eight offloads.