Canberra’s NRL season has ended with a 40-16 loss to the Sydney Roosters, who move into the top four with seven games left in the last round of the season.
In a strange twist of fate, it is the third straight year that one of these teams has ended the other’s season — first with the Roosters winning the 2019 grand final, then the Raiders knocking the Roosters out of the second week of the finals last year.
The Raiders did remarkably well to bounce back after dipping to 14th on the ladder as they won just one of eight games from round five to 13, sitting in ninth spot, equal on competition points with the eight-placed Sharks.
They showed more fight in the first half against the Roosters on Thursday night in Mackay, but still went into half-time trailing 20-12.
The Raiders’ ball control fell away and the Roosters capitalised in the second half, with mid-season recruit Adam Keighran completing a hat-trick with half an hour still to play in the game.
The injury-hit Roosters ran in two more tries through Ben Marschke and Lachlan Lam to run the score up, before Canberra winger Harley Smith-Shields scored a consolation try in the final minutes.
Despite the celebrations after the game, the Roosters are long odds to actually hold on to their spot in the top four.
Jumping to 34 competition points saw them leapfrog Parramatta and Manly into fourth spot, but both teams have a better for-and-against record than the Roosters.
While the Eels, despite being fresh off a win over first-placed Melbourne, are outsiders to beat Penrith on Friday night, the Sea Eagles are widely tipped to take down the Cowboys on Saturday to take over the last spot in the top four and earn themselves two chances in the finals.