NRL 2021 Canberra Raiders vs Parramatta Eels scores bunker controversy highlights

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Through Chris De Silva and Marc Churches

The Canberra Raiders have moved back into the top eight after a thrilling 12-10 win over the Parramatta Eels in the Gold Coast.

Tonight’s game started in a bizarre way with neither team able to score points in the first half, in what was the NRL’s first goalless opening half since the first round of the 2019 season.

After a grueling first half, Canberra made back-to-back attempts before the Eels came back late and were only controversially denied.

Eels winger Maika Sivo crossed in the 75th minute to narrow the deficit to two points before nearly producing the match winner with less than 10 seconds left.

The NRL bunker was forced to intervene and determine whether foul play or a shoulder strike was involved when Jordan Rapana charged into the corner at Sivo, stopping him from pressing the ball to the ground.

After a lengthy review, the Bunker ultimately deemed Rapana’s contact fair, despite the pleas of Eels star Clint Gutherson, who was left infuriated by The Bunker’s phone call.

“But [Rapana’s] leading with his knees and [Sivo’s] bleeding,” Gutherson told referee Adam Gee. “How is that not a penalty? That’s a terrible call.”

Despite the controversy surrounding the call, league greats Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston supported the video referee’s decision.

“I was okay with it, I agree with the officials,” Smith said in Nine’s coverage.

“I know there will be questions about Jordan’s contact with Maika Sivo and whether there was an arm or any action to try to wrap him around his arms.”

“I’m fine with it,” Thurston added.

“Of course if his leg comes into contact with… [Sivo’s] head, it’s a totally different decision, but he got it right and he won the game for the Raiders.

“That’s what you’re trained for. That’s what you want from your fullback.”

The Bunker also got support from Storm great Billy Slater, who said Rapana could have injured himself if he tried to deal with Sivo in a “conventional” way.

“It’s dedication, isn’t it? The game is on the line and I don’t think it’s possible to make a conventional tackle there,” he told Nine.

“You can’t drop low enough and open yourself up to be knocked out. Not only do you have a duty of care to the player with the football, you also have a duty of care to yourself.

“No one was hurt and I think that was probably the best-case scenario as it ended.”

Despite his initial disappointment, Gutherson told Nine after the game that the Eels “probably shouldn’t let it get that far in the game.”

Tonight’s result could have looked very different had Gutherson converted on Sivo’s 75th minute from the sidelines, which could have possibly forced a Golden Point end.

Heading into tonight’s game, the Raiders were dealt a vicious blow when it was announced earlier in the week that star player Jack Wighton and young star Xavier Savage would be unavailable.

As it stands, the Eels remain in fourth place on the NRL ladder, while the Raiders move up to eighth.

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