Raiders eye big finish to rocky NRL year

Jordan Rapana's desperate body check on Parramatta's Maika Sivo ensured an NRL win for Canberra.
Jordan Rapana's desperate body check on Parramatta's Maika Sivo ensured an NRL win for Canberra.

After a period with more bunny-hops than a learner driver, Canberra's Green Machine is roaring into life as the NRL finals near.

The Raiders' push for the top eight gained more momentum on Thursday with a hard-fought 12-10 win over fourth-placed Parramatta on the Gold Coast.

That was the third win on the spin for the 2019 grand finalists and keeps them firmly in the hunt for a playoff position.

The victory was sealed by a desperate effort from stand-in fullback Jordan Rapana, whose lunging effort bundled Maika Sivo into touch in the corner just as the Eels' winger looked set secure a last-gasp win for his team.

That effort capped a huge night for Rapana who posted 256 running metres, made 16 tackle-busts, two line-breaks and scored a crucial 52nd-minute try.

After a run of just two wins from Round 3 to Round 12, the Raiders' finals aspirations looked slim but after their recent revival Rapana believes there's nothing to stop a difficult campaign ending with something special.

"We've always had that belief," Rapana said.

"Obviously we had that rocky patch through the middle of the season but I guess just getting that first win against Manly really gave us confidence.

"We showed the gritty, grinding football team (on Thursday) that we can be even though we're down on players and players playing out of position.

"That's finals footy and I feel like 1-17 we showed that."

Several key players are expected to return for the Raiders before finals including reigning Dally M Medallist Jack Wighton and experienced prop Dunamis Lui, as well as Corey Horsburgh and Elliot Whitehead.

Rapana said the return of such crucial players is welcome but the Raiders have also proven they can perform in their absence.

"Those are our key players but you can't take credit away from the boys that have been chucked in there to do a job in the meantime," he said.

"We've played understrength for the last three weeks and that's credit to our reserve grade players that have come in and filled in.

"They've risen to the occasion and done a job."

Australian Associated Press