Recurring nightmare for Raiders
It's the recurring nightmare the Canberra Raiders cannot wake up from, as another close game slips through their fingers, going down to the Penrith Panthers by a field goal.
It's the fourth time this year Canberra have led in the final 10 minutes only to walk away without the two competition points.
Despite the crushing 23-22 loss, Raiders coach Ricky Stuart praised his team for dealing with the adversity they found themselves in.
Joey Leilua was taken from the field with a concussion in the first minute, while Jordan Rapana was carted from the field with a serious hamstring injury.
The absence of two players on the right edge saw back rower Elliott Whitehead playing centre and Ata Hingano on the wing.
"We shouldn't have even been in the game if you look at the stats, it shouldn't have even been that close," Stuart said.
Early penalties began piling the pressure on the home side, which resulted in Canberra making 74 more tackles for the game.
Sixteen errors also cruelled their chances of putting the Panthers away earlier, with the home side enjoying only 44 per cent of possession due to a 62 per cent completion rate.
"That was such a tough performance I was so proud of the performance. I'm not looking at us throwing the game away again," Stuart said.
"They're leading the comp and no team has scored a try against them the last two weeks.
"I've got Junior Paulo out, I've got [Josh] Hodgson out, I've got [Joe] Tapine out. It's one of our best performances of the year against the team that's meant to be the best."
Josh Papalii again showed why he's a representative star to nearly lead the Raiders to the win, with 115 metres from 11 runs along with seven tackle breaks, a line break, and a try-assist.
"Papa showed how good a club man he is and how good a player he is not only by the way he played on Wednesday but to back up and he got moved out of position as well," Raiders captain Jarrod Croker said.
"He's been one of better middles, but he had to go out in the back-row with all of the reshuffling."
The Raiders had a chance of sneaking in the 74th minute when hooker Siliva Havili took a shot at field goal from dummy-half only to see it sail well wide.
Stuart did not comment on the possibility of recalling Josh Hodgson from injury for next week's game the Wests Tigers, saying Havili had been a revelation in filling in for the English hooker despite his mistimed shot at goal on Friday night.
"He's done an unbelievable job this year, I don't think he's far away from re-signing and we'll be a stronger team with him and Josh in it," Stuart said.
Canberra could be forced to make more changes for next week after Charlie Gubb was placed on report for a dangerous tackle on halfback Nathan Cleary.