A spirited performance from the Raiders in hot and tough conditions in Darwin was not enough to get the win tonight, falling 18-10 to the Eels at TIO Stadium.
A tight contest saw the Raiders lead 10-6 for the majority of the match, but consecutive sets to the Eels late in the game took their toll on the Raiders, as they scored two tries in the final 15 minutes to claim the victory.
The Raiders started with a determined showing in defence, with their early intentions shown with some tough contact by their defensive line.
Debutant Jordan Rapana had a couple of strong early touches to calm his nerves and looked like his five years out of the game was more like five minutes. His work with the ball in the first half was outstanding, with only the video referee preventing him scoring his first try for the Green Machine.
Some errors crept into his game in the second half, however the positives outweighed the negatives as he showed why the club re-signed him for 2015 during the week.
It was the Raiders who scored first through Bill Tupou on the right wing, when the team ran down the short side through Josh McCrone who sent Tupou over. Croker converted from the sideline to give the Raiders a 6-0 lead.
The Raiders scored again soon after when Josh McCrone kicked across field for Edrick Lee, who seemed like he had a mile of time to pluck the kick from the air and send Jarrod Croker over for his 16th try of the season. Croker couldn’t add the extras, but the Raiders led 10-0 after 18 minutes.
The lead was almost extended when Jordan Rapana crashed his way through the defence, but the video referee disallowed the try as Jarrad Kennedy was pinged for an obstruction even though Corey Norman had ample time to make the tackle on Rapana.
This led to a shift in momentum as the Eels went downfield and Jarryd Hayne capitalised when Semi Radradra put him away for an Eels try. Sandows’ conversion made it 10-6 after 25 minutes.
Both teams traded sets towards the back end of the half with limited opportunity, as the score remained 10-6 as the teams headed into the sheds.
The Raiders attacking chances on the Eels line were few and far between in the second half as the Eels worked their way back into the contest, as they had numerous chances turned down by the video referee.
The pressure eventually took its toll on the Raiders though as the Eels finally scored, when their superstar fullback Jarryd Hayne burst into a gap to level the scores at 10-10. Sandow converted to give the Eels the lead, then they sealed the 18-10 win with a try to Tepai Moeroa.