Raiders v Panthers: Five key points
Nathan Cleary creates history and Josh Mansour stakes a case for an international recall as the Penrith Panthers possibly ended Canberra's season with a 26-22 win at GIO Stadium.
Raiders' season over?
It was a huge task for the Raiders to claw their way back from a lacklustre start to the year but the loss to Penrith on Sunday is probably a fair reflection of the theme for their season – close but not good enough.
Canberra took the lead in the second half and had opportunities to extend a two-point margin but a rushed attack brought upon a plethora of errors late in the game.
Despite a weight of possession and penalty count in their favour, it was the Panthers who came up with the killer play with the game in the balance.
"I was happy with the way we got back into that game, we should never have been allowed to get back into it," Raiders coach Ricky Stuart said post-game.
"There were three tries we were disappointed with how they scored them. We're better than that. At the end of the day our first 25 minutes let us down."
Dare to dream, Panthers fans?
Penrith are now in seventh heaven.
Some have dubbed the Panthers' six on the trot as luck and a soft run with narrow escapes over injury-riddled and depleted sides, but Anthony Griffin's men can only play what's in front of them as they now move within two points of the top four.
After being installed as premiership favourites to start the season, the Panthers have now begun to hit their groove with easily their most complete performance on the road for the season.
Next week's clash with the Dragons is huge and after the Red V embarrassed the side back in Round 1, you can bet the motivation to end their season is just as high as it was against the Raiders on Sunday.
"It felt like we were in control the whole time we had the ball," Panthers coach Anthony Griffin said post-game.
"I thought we always had that try in us if we got up the other end."
Cleary creates rugby league history
Nathan Cleary's personal tally of 12 points against the Raiders has seen the 19-year-old become the youngest player to score 200 points in a season.
It is a remarkable achievement for the young half with Cleary now just eight points away from entering into Penrith's top 10 on the point scoring list.
"It's a great achievement for him," Griffin said.
"He's had a great season to date and his goal-kicking at about 90 per cent. It's always nice to see the score go up by six most of the time."
Mansour wins winger battle
Panthers winger Josh Mansour has set out an ambition to represent Australia again in the 2017 World Cup and did his chances no harm in getting one over current Kiwi international Jordan Rapana.
It is no secret the pair have history and Sunday's battle between the two was as entertaining as it could be.
Mansour had the final say however with 150 metres from 12 carries including a vital four-pointer before half-time, while Rapana was well contained by the Panthers on the right edge and was noticeably coming in-field to look for a carry.
Canberra's attack has not been as dominant as the 2016 season thanks largely to the lack of impact the "Leipana" edge have had this year with opposing clubs figuring out their attacking prowess out wide.
Cotric's mixed bag
Nick Cotric is odds on favourite to win the 2017 Rookie of the Year at the Dally M awards, but even the 18-year-old will admit there is still a lot of development to go with his game.
The young gun came up with three errors in costly periods of the game after a fairly consistent season with the ball in hand.
After a two-try performance against the Warriors last start, Cotric got over the line for the Raiders in the first half but struggled to get involved for the remainder of the contest despite going to look for the ball in recent weeks.
A talented player no doubt, but plenty of learning to come.