The hot winning streak of revival by the St George Illawarra Dragons came crashing to a halt today, the Canberra Raiders securing a respectable 19-12 win at WIN Stadium. Usually a pushover away from their cold ACT home, the Green Machine flexed their muscle and turned it on – despite having a host of major injuries throughout their squad in recent weeks.
The Dragons were gunning for their 8th win on the tro, and started with a handy gusty breeze behind them against a side that hadnâ€™t had a victory in an NRL game at WIN Stadium, Wollongong for over 10 years.
But Canberra put it all together to stun the Dragons, piling on 14 unanswered points and at times looking to to pile on even more in a dazzling 40 minutes of Rugby League.
St George Illawarra pulled one back in the second half on the back of a helpful penalty, but a 4th Raiders touchdown and a Todd Carney field goal secured the third away win of the season for the ever improving Green Machine.
Joel Monaghan threatened the Dragonsâ€™ line early when he almost pulled down a Todd Carney bomb, and then the home side immediately counter-attacked with a flowing passing move that came close to opening the scoring.
Raiders fullback David Milne did his best to gift St George Illawarra a try by spilling the ball on his own tryline, but Jarrod Saffy fumbled his attempt to force the ball.
The hosts continued to pile on the pressure, but Canberra scrambled well and stayed alive when a Jamie Soward bomb drifted just out of reach of the Dragonsâ€™ wide men.
Colin Best then broke the game open for the Raiders against the run of play, bursting clear from inside his own 30-metres, pushing past Mark Gasnier and Soward to charge over in the left corner.
Towering prop Dane Tilse then crashed through some weak tackles to score Canberraâ€™s second
Canberra showed their attacking mindset when they refused to take a penalty shot at goal from right in front, instead taking the tap and immediately running in another try through Adrian Purtell after the winger took a looping pass from Monaghan.
St George Illawarra may have had a strong breeze at their backs in the first half but their kicking game was terrible, with Soward and Ben Hornby repeatedly letting the visitors off the hook with poor last-tackle kicks.
Purtell then appeared to have scored a spectacular second try, diving for the line with almost no space to work with in the right corner, only to be denied by video referee Graeme West.
Still, the Dragons had it all to do, trailing 14-0 at halftime.
The Raiders started the second half the way they ended the first, with a terrific run from Milne setting up Purtell again â€“ and this time he wasnâ€™t to be denied, crossing for his second to make it 18-0.
Todd Carney was remarkably penalised for taking the ball off the mark â€“ inside his own 20 metres â€“ and the Dragons finally got onto the scoreboard through Josh Morris. Sowardâ€™s conversion narrowed the gap to 12 points.
But Canberraâ€™s defence continued to hold firm and the hostsâ€™ attack never really clicked into gear, and when Carney landed a 71st-minute field goal the game was effectively over.
Brett Morris scored a consolation four-pointer on the stroke of full-time, but it may have come at a cost as he and Mark Gasnier picked up knocks.
For NRL News fans, expect to see plenty of hype and activity on the Shout Box this week as the no.1 fan of the Raiders – “Mr Akuma ” will no doubt be singing his teams praises to everyone and talking them up all the way to the Top 8.
Canberra Raiders 19 (Adrian Purtell 2, Colin Best, Dane Tilse, tries; Todd Carney goal, field goal) defeated St George Illawarra Dragons 12 (Josh Morris, Brett Morris tries, Jamie Soward 2 goals) at WIN Stadium. Crowd: 14,040.