Canberra make it five straight wins in fiery Eels clash

·3-min read
Darren England/AAP PHOTOS

Parramatta coach Brad Arthur has blasted the referees after his side failed to fire in a 26-18 loss to Canberra that put the Raiders in the top eight for the first time in 2023.

In freezing conditions, the Raiders made it five straight victories, with their biggest winning margin of the season leaving them 6-4 and within two competition points of top spot.

Arthur took aim at referee Grant Atkins and his team, suggesting a lop-sided penalty count had stopped the Eels finding any attacking flow.

The loss left Parramatta languishing at 4-7, with last year's grand finalists facing pressure to reach finals after a slow first half of the season.

Arthur said his side had been praised by match officials for their discipline, leaving him bewildered by Saturday's 10-3 penalty count.

"Nothing went our way. Very hard to come down here to Canberra when you get a 10-3 penalty count against you," he said.

"We can't be told we've got great compliance by the referees and then get penalised 10 times, it can't happen.

"I never say anything about the referees but tonight we were hard done by.

"We didn't have any ball, we had 38 per cent position in the second half.

"If we would have got some back-to-back sets we would have been OK, but we couldn't get any back-to-back possession."

Tempers flared throughout the clash at GIO Stadium, with a pair of State of Origin candidates sweating the judiciary's charge sheet after first-half incidents.

Canberra enforcer Corey Horsburgh was sin-binned for a punch on Parramatta's Ryan Matterson, the Queensland hopeful not making heavy contact yet still potentially in hot water for throwing the strike.

Parramatta and NSW powerhouse Junior Paulo also flirted with a 10-minute spell, reported for a cannonball tackle that left star Raider prop Joe Tapine needing medical attention for a hyperextended knee.

But Paulo's lack of intent to tackle Tapine's knees might save him from a suspension.

The Eels were lucky to avoid their own first-half sin-binning, with Bailey Simonsson allowed to stay on the field despite being reported and penalised for a hip-drop tackle on Jordan Rapana.

And they capitalised on Horsburgh's absence for the game's first try on 33 minutes, J'maine Hopgood grounding an impressive kick from Matterson.

But Canberra fired back with three straight tries - including one for NSW Origin hopeful Hudson Young - to go 12 points clear, a margin the Eels would never overturn.

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart lauded his players' ability to stick to the task, suggesting it was their most complete 80-minute performance of the season so far.

"We had to play tough, especially being a man down for 10 minutes," he said.

"We played with 12 (men) there in a really tight part of the game.

"We defended really, really well tonight ... we had to dig really deep in that period.

"Everyone's buying in to some things we've changed around preparation and we're seeing some dividends in regards to the quality of play."

Tapine returned from injury to complete a 174 metre, four-tackle bust game, while Horsburgh pushed his Origin case with 127m and 30 tackles without a miss.

Eels back-rower Shaun Lane limped off in the first half with a hamstring injury and did not return.