Winless against top-four rivals but resolve still strong: Sutton

Ryan Sutton is adamant the Raiders are not discouraged by their lack of success against the rest of the NRL's heavyweights in the wake of Sunday's four-point loss to the Sydney Roosters.  

Canberra have been one of the success stories of the season, fixing many of their defensive deficiencies that plagued their campaigns over the past two years to emerge a threat to topple premiers Sydney Roosters.

Sunday's clash at GIO Stadium was billed as a look into the future of a possible contest in the first week of the finals.

While Canberra did not find themselves down 16 points early like in the corresponding match in round nine, the losing margin was also close - they lost by six previously.

Their record against the other three teams in the top four this year is 0-4, defeats to the Storm and Rabbitohs and now two losses to the Roosters, not that it has dampened Sutton's expectations of the current side.

"They're the games you want to play in when they are as tight as that," Sutton said.

"We're not happy because we didn't get the result we wanted but at the same time we've can take a lot of positives out of it because that's the pacing and style of semi-finals football.

"We knew it was going to be intense, it was two versus three, but they're the game you want to play in the back end of the year when they're really important.

"We came up short in that [game] but we can take a lot of positives out of it."

The game was a positive one for Sutton who made his successful return from a calf strain to play 26 minutes off the bench.

The Englishman tallied 65 metres from eight runs and 24 tackles and said he would gain even more confidence in his right leg heading towards the finals.

"Feels really good, it was just good to get the game out of the way and hopefully I can keep progressing and get some more minutes, " Sutton told NRL.com.

"You can train as much as you want but being in that game situation, your body is under so many different sorts of stresses you can't replicate that in training.

"It was the freakiest thing I've ever done, literally finished a training session, I picked a pad up and put it back down, went to pick it up again and took a step and it went pop.

"So, it was just a freak accident but I'm taking every step I can now to protect it."

Down by 10 points with 20 minutes left in the game, the contest could have got away from the Raiders.

However, they showed the mental strength which has led to them rebuffing momentum swings in recent weeks to score in the 64th minute to give themselves a chance.

"It could have come down to Jacko [Wighton] going over in the corner and a try and Toots [Jarrod Croker] could have had a kick for the win," Sutton said.

"It could have gone either way, they're the games you really want to play in, tough throughout it and it comes down to the wire."

The run to the finals does not get any easy for Canberra as they prepare for Saturday's trip to Melbourne to take on the Storm.

The competition leaders again showed why they are the odds-on favourites to win the title after beating South Sydney 26-16 in Sunday's other heavyweight clash.

"We're going to go into this week wanting to get back out there and what a great game to do it," Sutton said.

"Over there in Melbourne it's going to be a tough game but we're going to take a lot out of this game."

Canberra coach Ricky Stuart post-match said Joey Leilua was close to a return from his neck surgery and his immediate playing future ahead of the Storm game will be assessed this week.