A bad dream turned into a nightmare for Manly on Friday night, a tumultuous 36 hours capped by a 30-18 loss to Canberra and injuries to NRL stars Daly Cherry-Evans and Jamie Lyon.
The Sea Eagles arrived at GIO Stadium fielding questions about allegations that two of their games from the 2015 season were being investigated for match-fixing.
Coach Trent Barrett urged his men to ignore it and focus on snapping their three-match winless streak.
And while they didn’t lack spirit, including a late fightback, the absence of Cherry-Evans and Lyon in the second half proved the difference.
Halfback Cherry-Evans had arguably his best start of the season, scoring the opening try before hurting his ankle in the 35th minute. He stayed on for the remainder of the first half but didn’t return from the break.
Skipper and five-eighth Lyon also went off in the 54th minute with a suspected hamstring injury, followed soon after by Jamie Buhrer (concussion), while Brenton Lawrence’s night ended early with a pectoral complaint.
The injuries compounded what was the Sea Eagles’ first defeat in the nation’s capital since 2004.
For the Raiders, it was their third win in a row and entrenches them inside the top eight – just one point behind fourth-placed North Queensland.
They were down 6-0 after just five minutes, but hit back via Brenko Lee and new father Josh Hodgson for a 12-6 lead at the break.
With no Cherry-Evans to steer the Sea Eagles around, Canberra ran riot with three tries in less than 10 minutes thanks to Elliot Whitehead, Jack Wighton and Josh Papalii.
But they invited Manly to score two tries in the closing stages, with Matt Parcell and Api Koroisau crossing over.
Papalii put in a monster performance off the bench just 48 hours after starring for Queensland in their 6-4 State of Origin I win at ANZ Stadium, as did young guns Joseph Tapine, Joey Leilua and Wighton.
Former Parramatta prop Junior Paulo had a strong debut in the lime green, having earnt a start following confirmation from the NRL on Friday morning his contract had been registered.
Manly next host Penrith on Sunday week, while the Raiders travel to Brisbane to play the Broncos on Thursday.