The Eels put in a much-improved effort after a 48-10 thrashing by the Roosters last week but it wasn't quite enough to stop Canberra snapping a three-game losing streak with a 22-16 win.
Mixed bag for Moses
There were always going to be plenty of eyes on new Eels recruit Mitch Moses following his much-publicised departure from Wests Tigers at the start of the week. With just four days to prepare at his new club and chief playmaker Corey Norman out injured it was always going to be a makeshift effort from he and halves partner Clint Gutherson and, perhaps as could be expected, Moses did some great things and some not-so great things.
The good – a series of well-placed long kicks in a match-high 392 kick metres. Many hit the turf, turned around the Raiders backs, pulled up in the corners and one was just a good bounce away from being a 40/20.
Despite one major missed tackle that almost led to a breakaway Raiders try he stuck to his task in defence and missed just three tackles for the game (well down on the nine he missed last week for Wests Tigers against Souths) while making 14. He ran the ball scarcely, finishing with 51 metres, and one of those runs ended with a knock-on in a big Jarrod Croker tackle. He and Gutherson combined for far too many seven-tackle restarts from kicks that were too heavy off the boot.
Nothing wrong with Papalii's memory
It's no secret Raiders back-rower Josh Papalii had a day out against Mitch Moses's Wests Tigers in Round 3, running for 225 metres with two line breaks and a try. In fact the whole Raiders left edge enjoyed that game as Jarrod Croker (five tackle busts), Nick Cotric and Aidan Sezer (four busts each) ran amok in the 46-6 win as Moses missed nine tackles.
Papalii, in his return from a one-game disciplinary suspension, had a similarly destructive game on Saturday. He lined up Moses with a big run in just the third minute and while Moses clung on admirably that time, he missed the big Maroons forward in a second-half break that could have led to points had Papalii's offload not gone forward.
Moses got some assistance in the defensive line from Tepai Moeroa but it wasn't enough to stop Papalii racking up 171 metres and three tackle busts as the Raiders closed out the game in the second half.
Raiders right side reclaiming mojo
The past three weeks have been poor not just for Canberra but in particular for their threatening right-edge attack. The Austin-Leilua-Rapana combo leaked plenty of points against the Bulldogs a fortnight ago and struggled against Newcastle last week and over the past three weeks the trio have combined for just a solitary try – from a miracle Rapana grounding against Manly in Round 9.
It is clear that the Eels, like Manly, Canterbury and Newcastle before them – were keen to keep the opportunities for those damaging ball runners to a minimum by not giving them space and time with the ball. But this time, with some nice distribution from Hodgson and better creativity from Austin coupled with good involvement from the outside two – things started to turn around.
Hodgson helped create a try that Leilua finished off with a powerful run and a good right-side shift helped Wighton lay on a great cut-out ball for Rapana's match-winner. Maybe the Raiders' right-edge mojo is on the way back.
A tale of two hookers
Eels rake Kaysa Pritchard has stuck to his task admirably so far this year in the absence of senior dummy-half Isaac De Gois (concussion) and has been getting through a huge defensive workload in his first season of regular big minutes.
But his service from dummy-half still needs plenty of work and the difference between what he provided compared to his opposite number, English Test rake Josh Hodgson, was fairly stark on Saturday night.
Hodgson took control from early in the game, brought his forwards onto the ball nicely, kicked to the corners, and set up a try for Joey Leilua with a nice piece of deception.
Parramatta ball runners had to pick up too many balls that weren't squarely on their chests but the most noticeable difference came around the half hour mark with the Eels attacking and desperately seeking their first try.
Pritchard took a step or two from dummy half at the Canberra line while he assessed his options and Hodgson spotted his chance and batted Pritchard's forearm. The Eels' hooker spilled the ball and Canberra were off the hook with Hodgson providing the youngster with a tough but important lesson.
There can be no questioning Pritchard's efforts – he throws himself into everything, chases kicks, pushes up in support and makes mounds of tackles – and he clawed back some ground with a great short ball for Siosaia Vave's second-half try.
Eels injury worries for Brown and Jennings
The last thing the injury-hit Eels needed (Corey Norman, Frank Pritchard and Brad Takairangi head the current injured list with Bevan French only playing his first game back from a knee complaint) was more injuries.
But tough-as-nails lock Nathan Brown was forced off after 20 minutes clutching his ribs then State of Origin hopeful, in-form centre Michael Jennings, came off limping with a quad concern 12 minutes from full time.
Speaking after the game, coach Brad Arthur confirmed both Brown's ribs injury and Jennings' quadriceps injury would require scans but did not yet know the prognosis for either.
"It was ribs so he's gone to the hospital just to see where it's at," Arthur said of Brown.
"He was in a fair bit of discomfort, he's pretty tough so fingers crossed it's not too bad."