Powerhouse second rower Isaiah Papali’i starred with two tries as Parramatta ran roughshod over the Raiders in the second half with a 35-10 thrashing at Canberra Stadium.
In Saturday’s other NRL matches, South Sydney defeated Wests Tigers 18-14 via a Tom Burgess try in a frenetic period of extra time, and Manly kept Gold Coast scoreless, winning 36-0.
Papali’i, who dotted down in the second and 45th minutes, was well supported by Eels playmaker Mitchell Moses, who kicked five successful conversions and a field goal.
Late tries to hooker Reed Mahoney and fullback Clint Gutherson blew out the scoreline in front of a partisan Canberra crowd.
Well in the contest when down 12-10 at half-time, the Raiders faded badly in the second half as Papali’i’s four-pointer was followed by a slick effort to forward Shaun Lane in the 55th minute.
The Raiders’ woes ramped up when winger Bailey Simonsson was taken off for concussion after hitting his head on Maika Sivo’s leg, forcing a reshuffle of players by coach Ricky Stuart in the 51st minute.
In the first half, halfback George Williams helped get the Raiders back in the match with a try following good support from first-gamer Caleb Aekins and Josh Hodgson.
Aekins, a stand-out for Canberra, made 88 run metres during the first half and more than justified his selection for injured fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad.
The Raiders were sluggish to start and made early errors, including winger Jordan Rapana knocking on a high bomb in one of the Eels’ opening sets.
But Rapana soon made up for his mistake by scoring Canberra’s first try by diving over the corner.
He almost scored again in a similar position at the 20-minute mark but was stripped by Parramatta.
The Eels opened their scoring inside the second minute of the match with a barnstorming try by Papali’i in the left-hand corner.
They continued their early momentum with winger Maika Sivo scoring in a similar position.
Rabbitohs steal epic win in bizarre finish
Wests Tigers came agonisingly close to the upset of the season after going toe-to-toe with heavyweights South Sydney in an 18-14 golden-point epic at Stadium Australia.
With the scores locked at 14-all at full-time, Rabbitohs forward Tom Burgess broke through to score under the posts in extra time but referee Gerard Sutton called play on after it appeared he knocked on.
After another week of heavy criticism, Luke Brooks appeared to get the fairytale finish he was after as he scooped up the ball and raced away to score at the other end before it was cruelly ripped away.
A bunker review found Burgess had scored, gifting the Rabbitohs the most unusual and frantic win of the season so far.
The Tigers were down to 12 men for the first golden-point match of the season after centre Asu Kepoa was sin-binned for a professional foul with just three minutes to go.
By then, both sides were frantic with scores locked at 14-all when Rabbitohs halfback Adam Reynolds missed the penalty that would have put his side in the lead.
With six minutes to go, the off-contract star had pulled off the play of the season with a two-point drop goal from 42 metres out when his side had trailed 14-12.
It set up the tense finish, with the Tigers losing out but showing the defensive resolve coach Michael Maguire had been begging for during the past few weeks.
Not since a 48-0 win over Brisbane in round 10 last year had the Tigers kept an opposition to less than 20 points.
It was a sharp turn-around from last week, when the Tigers were booed off the field from their own fans at Leichhardt Oval after trailing North Queensland 28-6 at half-time.
Less than a week later across town, the Tigers were 6-6 with third-placed South Sydney at the break and lead by eight with just 13 minutes to go.
A dazzling dance down the sidelines from Latrell Mitchell revived the Rabbitohs while they were down 14-6, tiptoeing down the sidelines before he was stopped by Tigers forward Luke Garner.
Just two minutes later, Walker shot through the Tigers’ defensive line from 40 metres out to put Dane Gagai over to get within two points.
Mitchell’s brilliance got the Rabbitohs back in the match but he is facing time on the sidelines after being placed on report for a shot on David Nofoaluma in the first half.
The star fullback hit Nofoaluma late and high with a swinging forearm to the head after the Tigers winger chipped through for Daine Laurie for their first try of the night.
Tigers forwards Luke Garner and Zane Musgrove were also put on report in the first half
Teenage debutant Jake Simpkin made 55 tackles and provided spark out of dummy half for the Tigers, all but ensuring his place in the side against Manly next Sunday.
Tom Trbojevic stars in Manly shutout
Tom Trbojevic has wasted no time paying Manly back for his bizarre pre-season mishap, starring in a 36-0 thrashing of a hapless Gold Coast in Mudgee.
Making his long-awaited season debut after aggravating a hamstring injury in what was alleged to be a bathroom slip, Trbojevic showed no ill-effects in scoring a try, setting up two more, and having a hand in a third.
And that was just in the first half.
By the end of a wet afternoon at Glen Willow Oval, Trbojevic had a match-high 202 metres and nine tackle breaks, almost single-handedly breathing life into the Sea Eagles’ campaign.
After starting the season with a 0-4 win-loss record, Des Hasler’s side has now claimed back-to-back victories, is two points out of the top eight, and looking a different team with Trbojevic on deck.
Second rower Josh Schuster also continued his impressive rookie season with 105 metres and two try assists, while wingers Jason Saab and Reuben Garrick had two tries each.
It was an uncharacteristic no-show from the Titans, who had begun the year as the league’s most improved outfit in Justin Holbrook’s second season in charge.
One week after putting 40 on Newcastle, a humbled Gold Coast were bereft of ideas against the Sea Eagles’ defence and were held scoreless for the first time in the Holbrook era.
Trbojevic had the Titans’ right edge defence in fits in an electric 15-minute ambush, first putting Brad Parker over in the 10th minute before involving himself in a Garrick try soon after.
The New South Wales State of Origin centre did it himself in the 22nd minute, stretching out his legs to finish off a 50-metre effort before he made a 60-metre line-break minutes later to send Saab away.
Having survived a thorough test of his hamstrings, Trbojevic was then given an early mark midway through the second half.
In what was a flawless opening 40 minutes where they completed all 18 sets, the only sour point for the Sea Eagles was the citing of prop Josh Aloiai for a high shot.
Two more tries in a dour second half, another each for Garrick and Saab, completed the demolition.