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Rapana: Last ditch try-saver 'could've gone either way'

Even Jordan Rapana admitted his try-saving hit on Parramatta winger Maika Sivo "could have gone either way" after Canberra held on for a 12-10 NRL win on the Gold Coast.

But in the end the Raiders fullback believed "justice" prevailed after he endured some anxious moments as the bunker trawled over replays of his hip bump that denied Sivo a last gasp, match-winning try.

After both sides went toe to toe in Thursday night's brutal round 19 exchange, the Eels looked to have landed a knockout blow in the dying moments.

Parramatta cut the deficit to just two points after Sivo crashed over in the 76th minute before the hulking Fijian looked to have bagged his double – and an unlikely match winner – just seconds from full-time.

However, Rapana capped a remarkable game stepping up for injured fullback Xavier Savage (shoulder) by bundling Sivo into touch with some help from Harley Smith-Shields.

The Raiders didn't start popping the champagne straight away though with the bunker studying Rapana's contact on Sivo after the giant speedster lay prone on the ground nursing his eye.

There was speculation the Eels may be granted a penalty try before the bunker gave Rapana the all clear and denied Sivo a crucial four-pointer – much to the Raiders No.1's relief.

Match Highlights: Eels v Raiders

"To be honest watching it on the replay I thought it could have gone either way," Rapana said of his contact.

"But when you are in those moments you are just trying to do your best to make the tackle, whatever way you can.

"I probably came off second best. He got me pretty good.

"He is a big fella but there was another great tackle on him as well from Harley so I think there was a bit of justice there as well."

When pressed on his last gasp tackle's legality, Rapana said: "I didn't lead with my shoulder.

"It was more my hip but when you are in those moments as a player, you just go in there.

"It's rugby league. There's high contact and collisions are huge. In that split moment I was just trying my best to stop them from scoring any way I can."

Rapana's crunch defensive play capped a stunning game.

He may have been the Raiders' fourth choice fullback but Rapana looked right at home in the No.1 jersey, running 256m (100m post contact) and finishing with 16 tackle busts, two line breaks and a crucial 52nd-minute try.

"We have been a bit unlucky there in the past. We have had three fullbacks injured," said Rapana, a regular winger.

"For me my strength as a winger is carrying the ball strong, just helping with yardage as much as I can.

"I didn't want to go too far away as my role as a winger. I took the game on as a third winger, getting involved as much as I can with my carries to help out the middles.

"I felt as though I had a crack but the whole 17 had a crack. It was a gritty, tough game – I was just glad to get the win."

Stuart singles out Rapana for extra praise

Rapana's effort earned rare praise from hard marking Raiders coach Ricky Stuart.

"I didn't want to single anyone out but I did single Rappa out in the changerooms [after the win]," he said.

"He's loved by all the boys and that's why. Outside being a good person, a good bloke, he just rips in on the field – they love playing with him."

The Raiders (8-10 record) claimed their third straight win and first over a top four side to stay in the finals hunt despite suffering yet more injuries, losing prop Josh Papalii (concussion) and Ryan Sutton (sternum).

They were already without Savage, NSW playmaker Jack Wighton (ribs) and Elliott Whitehead (shoulder).

Yet Rapana was convinced the Raiders could still launch a top eight tilt.

"For sure, we have always had that belief," he said.

"Getting that win against Manly [two weeks ago] gave us confidence and we showed [against Parramatta] we can play gritty, grinding football that we know we can even though we are down on players – that's finals footy."

Acknowledgement of Country

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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