A second-half comeback against Parramatta has delivered Canberra their eighth NRL win in a row and guaranteed them a second chance in this year’s finals.
In front of a season-high crowd of 18,825 at GIO Stadium on Sunday, Raiders skipper Jarrod Croker produced a historic outing, setting up three of Brenko Lee’s four tries on the way to the 28-18 victory.
The league’s leading point-scorer also added a try and kicked two goals to take him past Clinton Schifcofske’s 2001 club record of 245 points in a season.
The win keeps Canberra in third spot and, more important, five points ahead of fifth-placed North Queensland with just two games remaining in the regular season.
Not since the Raiders came fourth in 2003 will the club finish so high on the ladder.
However, the win was soured by a possible rib injury to prop Junior Paulo, who went off early in the second half and didn’t return.
Canberra came back from 16-0 down after 19 minutes and looked a shadow of the side that toppled ladder leaders Cronulla and Melbourne in the past fortnight.
It was Parramatta versus the clock early, with tries to speed men Michael Jennings, Semi Radradra and Bevan French shocking the Raiders faithful to take a 16-0 lead in the 19th minute.
Jennings was in the thick of it early, planting a Jeff Robson grubber in the fifth minute before setting up Radradra in the 13th with a neat catch, step and pass.
French later denied a try to Brenko Lee and backed it up by supporting a breakaway Radradra a minute later, sending the Eels on their way to what looked like an upset.
But the Raiders stemmed the tide when Lee scored his first try in the 23rd minute, which was enough to keep his team in touch at 18-4 at halftime.
The break did wonders for the home side, in particular for Croker, who surpassed Schifcofske with a try and goal and then supplied Lee’s second and third tries.
A fourth to Lee in the 65th minute gave his team the lead before Iosia Soliola sealed the win with 10 minutes remaining.