After coming up short all season, Canberra have finally delivered in a cliffhanger, with a Josh Hodgson golden point try giving them a dramatic 28-24 win over Parramatta.
On an afternoon when Eels winger Semi Radradra broke Steve Ella’s 33-year-old club record for most tries in a season, the Raiders were looking to avoid making history of their own on Sunday by becoming just the second team to lose six games in a year by two points or less.
In front of a vocal home crowd of 10,515 and with Canberra flier Sisa Waqa in the sin bin for a professional foul, Parramatta looked headed for victory in the 78th minute as halfback Luke Kelly kicked his team out to a 24-18 lead with a penalty goal.
However, an Edrick Lee try in the corner on the final play of regulation time reduced the margin to two, leaving captain Jarrod Croker with a sideline conversion to send the game into overtime.
But Croker, whose 16-point haul saw him overtake Sydney Roosters’ James Maloney as the season’s leading pointscorer, coolly slotted the goal to set up a grandstand finish.
Croker then positioned himself for the match-winner late in the extra period, only for Hodgson to sell a huge dummy, paving the way for him to scurry over untouched.
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart was pleased to finally secure a victory in a close contest.
“It was nice to win a tight one for a change,” he said.
“I said through the year, ‘the more we’re in, the closer we are to winning one’.”
Earlier in the match, Radradra equalled Ella’s 23-try mark with a dubious putdown to level the game at six-all.
The Fijian international then broke the record with another contentious effort right after halftime that a drew a `Semi’ chant from the Eels faithful.
The Raiders hit back with consecutive tries to Croker, before the home side regained the lead with back-to-back tries of their own to Junior Paulo and Daniel Alvaro.
Kelly’s penalty goal gave them a six-point advantage, only for the Eels to controversially knock on from the kick-off.
Eels coach Brad Arthur was upset with the decision that allowed the Raiders a chance to force the game into golden point.”
“It’s the wrong decision. Ryan Morgan dived on the ball. There’s no knock on,” he said.