Panthers v Raiders: Five key points
The Raiders out-scored the Panthers in an exciting clash that yielded 58 points in total at Pepper Stadium. Here are five key points from Canberra's 34-24 win over Penrith.
Raiders thrilled to win ugly
In a make or break clash for two teams trying to sneak into the top eight, the Raiders were never going to be worried about how they got the two points on Sunday.
"It was a pretty ugly game, a few errors and tough conditions with that wind," Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart said.
"Playing at Penrith Park is always tough but this is a really important two points to come away from here."
Skipper Jarrod Croker echoed his coach's sentiments, noting both side's obvious desperation to come away victors.
"Both sides were pretty desperate out there today, both on the same competition points," Croker said.
"Both sides were playing a bit [desperate] like that."
Panthers beat themselves
It was a thoroughly entertaining clash on Sunday afternoon, but it certainly wasn't clinical.
Neither side had an impressive completion rate, with the Raiders making nine errors and the Panthers 12.
Furthermore, Penrith's mistakes came at crucial junctions in the game.
"I thought we beat ourselves today," Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said.
"We made far too many mistakes, I think they ended up with 10 extra sets completed than we did and that's going to hurt you in any game, especially against a side like Canberra.
"I thought when it went to 24-all and Dean Whare dropped the ball cold… of all people Dean's probably got the best hands of anyone in our team.
"When we actually looked like doing something and they scored again. It probably summed it up a bit."
Stuart isn't worrying about the top eight
The Raiders are now nicely placed to make a run at a finals position this year, particularly given they face a string of bottom eight teams after their crucial trip to North Queensland next weekend.
However Stuart wouldn't be drawn into any discussions on where his team may end up come September.
"We're not a team yet that can be worrying about the eight or where we're going, it's a matter of just worrying about next week," Stuart said.
"We made that pact a month ago. Whatever happens now through to the end of the season is just going to be great for the future for this squad whether we make the eight or we don't.
"We're not good enough to be worrying about where we're going to be in three, four, five weeks time."
Penrith face a tough run home
The injury-plagued Panthers now drop to 13th position on the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder and remain on 18 competition points.
With six rounds remaining they'll need to win at least five games to reach 28 points and be a chance to play finals football.
That task will begin with a tough clash against the Rabbitohs next Sunday afternoon at ANZ Stadium.
The Panthers will be sweating on the return of some key players for that clash.
Canberra need more time to bring the respect back
He's been saying it all year but Ricky Stuart thought Sunday afternoon was a perfect opportunity to hose down any expectation surrounding his improving squad.
He played the numbers game to prove the Raiders really aren't any chance of being serious contenders this year.
"We're a very, very young team," he said.
"I think we've got a pretty bright future in the near future coming through over the next three or four years if we keep committed.
"The core of our group is probably around 22, 23 years old.
"When you look at teams that have been successful over the years they have a good group of representative players, they have a main core of their group around 25, 26 years old… around 70 to 100 games experience.
"That's why I can genuinely say quite strongly if we can keep it together over the next two three years we'll have a very competitive footy team.
"I said from the day I got here that I wanted to get respect back for this club and I think we're slowly doing that."