A mixed bag from club debutant Mitch Moses had some bright spots but it wasn't enough for the Eels in a tough 22-16 loss to Canberra at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.
Injuries to lock Nathan Brown (ribs, 22nd minute) and Origin hopeful, centre Michael Jennings (quad, 67th minute) added to coach Brad Arthur's worries in a game that saw the Eels give up an early 10-0 deficit before claiming the lead early in the second half before getting run down.
Canberra back-rower Josh Papalii was licking his lips at the prospect of again lining up against Moses, who missed nine tackles in Round 3 as Papalii ran amok in a huge win over Wests Tigers.
Papalii was close to best on ground with 171 metres, three offloads, three tackle busts and 30 tackles in his return from a disciplinary suspension.
For his part Moses launched plenty of long probing kicks to the corners and forced a couple of repeat sets with grubbers but also gave away too many seven-tackle sets – a sin compounded by halves partner Clint Gutherson doing the same far too regularly.
Despite scoring three unanswered tries between the 34thh and 48th minute, Canberra were simply too strong at the start and end of the game for the undermanned Eels.
The early signs were poor for Parramatta as a regulation overlap helped boom rookie Nick Cotric step past Josh Hoffman to score in the left corner in just the fourth minute. The Raiders edged the midfield battle on the back of a Josh Hodgson masterclass and when the hooker's classy set-up put Joey Leilua over in the 20th minute the Eels were in trouble.
It got worse when lock Nathan Brown (ribs) was taken from the field shortly after but the blue and golds stuck to their task.
A miracle try six minutes from half time started and finished by back-rower Manu Ma'u got the Eels on the board before some amazing evasion from Semi Radradra right on the break put Michael Jennings over with Clint Gutherson's sideline conversion tying the scores at 10-apiece.
A pair of Jack Wighton errors piled the pressure on Canberra early in the second half and while they withstood a couple of raids the pressure eventually told when Kaysa Prichard's flat pass allowed Siosaia Vave to burst over the line.
A last-play penalty against the Eels shortly after piggy-backed Canberra into attacking range and they drew level through some wonderful work from 200-gamer, captain Jarrod Croker, who beat half the Eels team and offloaded for Blake Austin to score.
A spilled bomb from Radradra looked to have ended in a 68th minute Raiders try but the score was withdrawn when Hodgson was found to have influenced the play from an offside position.
A breakaway Michael Jennings grubbered ahead for French to almost score but the fullback couldn't ground the ball cleanly and worse still, Jennings was injured in the play and had to be taken from the field with what looked like a quadriceps injury.
A Raiders right-side shift was the match-winning play for the Green Machine seven minutes from time when Wighton's cut-out found Radradra out of position and despite a late scare when Suaia Matagi got into space close to the Raiders line, the Canberra defence held firm to cling on for a 22-16 victory.
Canberra Raiders 22 (Cotric, Leilua, Austin, Rapana tries; Croker 3 goals) defeated Parramatta Eels 16 (Ma'u, Jennings, Vave tries; Gutherson 2 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Halftime: 10-all. Crowd: 10,074.