Raiders Survive Dragons’ Comeback Scare

The Canberra Raiders have further improved their impressive record against the St George Illawarra Dragons through a 22-16 victory in the nation’s capital.

Although the infamous Canberra hoodoo was officially broken in 2014, the Raiders once more had too much strike power for the Dragons in their first game back at GIO Stadium.

Nick Cotric continued his run of form against the Dragons, scoring the first try of the clash for the fourth year in a row.

Bailey Simonsson doubled the Raiders’ lead ten minutes later on the other side of the field, outleaping Mikaele Ravalawa to cross for his second try of the season.

Both sides kept things relatively tidy for the remainder of the half, completing at over 85% through the first 30 minutes.

However, the Dragons discipline began to fade with minutes to go until the break.

Capitalising on a mid-field mistake, George Williams scooted through the non-existent Dragons’ defence to score in the final minute of the half, giving his side an 18-0 lead.

The first chance of the second half fell to the Dragons but fullback Matt Dufty was unable to clean up a Ben Hunt banana kick to score the Saints’ first points of the match.

Jarrod Croker would have no such troubles, crashing onto a Jack Wighton kick to score his first four-pointer of the season.

Matt Dufty then replied, making up for his earlier blunder to reduce the margin to 18.

Thoughts of a comeback were then amplified by Zac Lomax, who sent Jason Saab through the line before backing up to score the try himself.

Lomax has scored 62 of the Dragons 122 points so far this season.

When Euan Aitken sent Matt Dufty away to score untouched with a minute to go, the small Canberra crowd was provided with a grandstand finish.

But there was to be no fairytale win for the Dragons who were left to rue an abysmal first half.

The Raiders will be counting the cost of the win with Elliot Whitehead and Emre Guler suffering leg injuries while Sia Soliola was sent to hospital with a suspected fractured cheekbone.

Canberra coach Ricky Stuart said that he was proud of his team’s ability to stave off the late comeback after a tough few weeks of travel but demonstrated some concern over the growing injury toll.

“We had a short turnaround, for them to back up with all those injuries in the middle and show that energy at the back end of the game, why wouldn’t I be happy?” he stated.

For the Dragons, Paul McGregor was ‘filthy’ with his team’s first half performance but said that the improvements he saw in the second period would provide them with a platform off which they could build for the coming weeks.

The Raiders have jumped the Tigers into sixth position and will take on Melbourne next Saturday, while the Dragons will enjoy a nine-day turnaround before facing Manly next Sunday.

NRL News Player of the Game:
3 Points – George Williams – Tough to choose a standout player of the match, but Williams’ efforts in the first half put the Raiders in a position to survive the late scare. One try, one try assist and a line-break for the Englishman.

2 Points – Cameron McInnes – Monster night defensively for the Dragons’ rake who had 66 tackles, with no missed tackles. Also had 16 runs for over 120 metres.

1 Point – Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad – The man dubbed ‘CNK’ has been relatively quiet for the Green Machine this season, but had a solid night tonight with 260 running metres on 33 runs and a try assist to boot. Other standout performances came from Euan Aitken, Zac Lomax and Nick Cotric.

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