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Loss to Roosters doesn't dent Raiders' title dreams: Stuart

Ricky Stuart believes he is still in control of a side with the skill to win the NRL premiership this season, despite losing to the Sydney Roosters for the second time this season by four points.

The Raiders fought back from 10 points down midway through the second half, with a try to Elliott Whitehead giving them a chance of claiming their biggest win of the season in front of a bumper home crowd at GIO Stadium.

Despite the Raiders being unable to land the knockout blow late, the Canberra coach's confidence in the team that has been constructed this season remained unwavering.

"If we were playing a grand final tomorrow, I'd be confident," Stuart said.

"If we were playing in the grand final tomorrow, against whoever is perceived as being the best team, I reckon we could beat them.

"It didn't happen tonight but Melbourne are on top of the competition and we've got them next week."

The 22-18 loss stung even more for the Raiders who were unable to celebrate Jarrod Croker's 250th NRL game in the way they would have liked.

Match Highlights: Raiders v Roosters

Adding insult to injury, the Raiders co-captain failed to finish the game after being sent for an HIA assessment, after being involved in a heavy tackle in the 77th minute.

"We've had a bit of success with milestones this year but not tonight," Stuart said.

"It was disappointing for Toots but where this team has improved over the last couple of years with the game in the balance midway through the second half we could found it too tough.

"I've never had an issue with effort, they always play for each other, but being 10 points down and not all of the things going your way, it was pretty brave in bouncing back."

Positives stemming from the loss include Nick Cotric making his return from suspension and Ryan Sutton playing strongly off the bench after being out with a calf strain.

Stuart confirmed Joey Leilua "is not far away" in his return from his neck surgery and will assess his playing chances during the week ahead of their next blockbuster clash with Melbourne at AAMI Park next Saturday.

"We didn't need that game tonight to go and play Melbourne," Stuart said.

"We had a loss tonight sure, but I've been very happy with our past performances.

"I think our worst performance over the last six weeks was the second half against Parra, but we don't need that game to go play Melbourne.

"What that game does is just makes you extremely battled hardened because it's close to semi-final intensity."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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