There was nobody more relieved to get out of Penrith with two competition points than Canberra coach Ricky Stuart who broke his long run of outs against the Panthers on Sunday.
The Raiders scored a thrilling 34-24 victory over Penrith at Pepper Stadium to keep in touch with the top eight with six rounds of the NRL season remaining.
For Stuart, it was his first win over the Panthers in six years, ending a losing run that stretched back to when he was in charge of Cronulla in 2009.
“Playing at Penrith Park is always tough … it’s a really important two points when you come away from here,” Stuart said.
“There’s not many times I’ve come away from here with two points.”
Canberra overcame a couple of dubious video refereeing calls to score the win in the 10-try thriller, but Stuart was happy not to discuss officials after his side’s controversial golden-point loss to Cronulla last week.
The Raiders were on the end of a couple of seemingly bad calls in the first half which resulted in tries to Elijah Taylor and Isaah Yeo, with replays suggesting there were knock-ons in the lead up to both tries.
“It’s nice to win a close one. I think either team that lost today would have been disappointed,” Stuart said.
Winger Edrick Lee sealed the victory with four minutes remaining when he charged down a Peter Wallace kick, catching the ball and running about 75 metres as the Panthers suffered a third straight loss.
The victory was soured by star back-rower Josh Papalii being placed on report for a shoulder charge on Nigel Plum who was forced off the field with concussion early in the second half.
Replays appeared to show first contact was from a head clash before Papalii’s shoulder hit the prop.
Plum walked off the field with the assistance of a couple of trainers after refusing to leave the field on a stretcher and Penrith coach Ivan Cleary said the front-rower seemed in good spirits in the Panthers’ dressing room.
“I haven’t had a great look at him, but he’s up and walking around … he seems alright,” Cleary said.
Prop Paul Vaughan and winger Jordan Rapana both scored doubles for the Raiders who got home on the back of outstanding performances from hooker Josh Hodgson and five-eighth Blake Austin.
Vaughan’s second try in the 56th minute came shortly after Plum was taken off and it gave the Raiders the lead for the first time of the afternoon.
Penrith squandered several outstanding opportunities in the dying stages before Lee’s brilliant solo effort – the Raiders’ sixth try – broke the hearts of Penrith fans and seemingly ended their side’s hopes of making the finals.