Our boys will next week travel to Cronulla desperate to avoid the wooden spoon after a second half fade out has seen the St George Illawarra Dragons snap a 14 year hoodoo at GIO Stadium downing the Canberra Raiders 34-16 in front of 10,318 fans.
It was a disappointing second half from the Raiders who had no answers for the Dragons in the second half who scored 24 unanswered points despite trailing 12-10 at half time.
Brett Morris was a stand-out for the Dragons bagging a hat-trick, including a sensational acrobatic effort in the second half.
Canberra started the game like last week and got the perfect start when Josh Papalii crashed over following a short ball from Glen Buttris for the first try of the afternoon. Croker converted the try to give the Raiders a 6-0 lead after three minutes.
The Dragons got the next try when Brett Morris burrowed his way over, Gareth Widdop was unsuccessful with the conversion hitting the crossbar.
Then in the 18th minute a smart backline play saw Morris go over unmarked on the wing. Widdop converted the try to give the Dragons a 10-6 lead.
Looking to spark the side Paul Vaughan looked to have scored before the video ref found he was short, from the restart the Raiders looked to have forced a goal line drop out before it was ruled that Bill Tupou had knocked on.
The boys were up for an arm wrestle and they took the lead when Anthony Milford sliced through the Dragon’s defence before sending Jordan Rapana over for his first try for the Green Machine. Croker converted the try to give the Raiders a 12-10 lead in the 32nd minute.
It brought about some enterprising play with the Raiders starting to find holes in the defence, with Josh McCrone’s kicking game on song. Papalii and Vaughan were also damaging for the Raiders running for a combined 162 metres (Papalii 92m and Vaughan 70m) in the first half.
They started the second half the better when Milford set up Croker for his 17th try of the season. Croker dragged the conversion leaving the Raiders with a 16-10 lead after 46 minutes.
The Dragons hit back moments later through former Raider Josh Dugan who scored in the corner. Widdop the man who assisted the try, was unable to convert from the sideline.
Following a report placed on Mitch Cornish for a crusher tackle, the Dragons were able to make the most of the penalty awarded to them and score through centre Peter Mata’Utia. Widdop again shanked the conversion leaving the Dragons with a two point lead in the 57th minute.
Then following a few fortuitous decisions the Dragons made the Raiders pay when Benji Marshall executed a perfectly weighted cross field kick to find Jason Nightingale in the corner. Widdop converted the try to take the Dragons out to a 24-16 lead with 17 minutes to go.
Dugan looked to have got himself a double but the video ref ruled that the centre bounced the ball on his way to the line. Morris moments later completed his hat-trick in unbelievable fashion with a try of the year contender in the corner.
The second half dominance from the Dragons continued when Nightingale crossed for his second try of the game. Widdop couldn’t convert the try leaving the final scores at 34-16. Canberra will next week travel to Remondis Stadium keen to avoid the wooden spoon,
St. George Illawarra 34
Tries: Morris 3, Nightingale 2, Dugan, Mata’Utia; Widdop 3 goals
Canberra Raiders 16
Tries: Papalii, Rapana, Croker; Croker 2 goals