It was a blockbuster finish tonight at GIO Stadium as the Raiders returned to their home ground for the first time since round one to secure a 22-16 win over the Dragons. The Dragons fought right down to the wire, but it was the Raiders defence that saw them bag the two points in front of 2,500 loyal Raiders fans.
The opening half was riddled with errors from both sides, but it was the Raiders that managed to capitalise on the Dragons mishaps.
Paul Vaughan put a high tackle on Ryan Sutton in the opening minutes of the match, leading to a penalty to the Raiders that allowed them to start building some momentum in the attack.
A pass from Charnze Nicholl-Klokstad to Nick Cotric saw Cotric powering through the Dragons defensive line to score the first try of the night.
It wasn’t long after, that a loose carry from Zac Lomax saw the Raiders back in possession which again proved costly to the Dragons.
Playmaker George Williams put a swift kick up to the corner and it was Bailey Simonsson that came up with it, to score an impressive try. Croker successfully kicked the conversion to give Raiders a 12-point lead.
In the 18th minute, Iosia Soliola came off for a HIA after making a tackle. He was later ruled out on returning to the game and is off to the hospital for X-rays on a suspected facial fracture.
The Dragons used a Captain’s challenge to successfully challenge a double knock-on call from the on-field refs, which was ruled a knock-on from Michael Oldfield. The Raiders then gave away a set restart 10-out but the Dragons couldn’t find the try line.
Just minutes out from half-time Williams put on a deadly left-foot step which saw the Englishman bag his first-ever try since joining the NRL. A successful conversion from Jarrod Croker settled the half time score 18-0.
It looked to be all Dragons at the start of the first half, but Croker wasn’t letting it get away from them, charging into the in-goal to dive on a Jack Wighton kick, to score his first try for the season, breaking his try-less drought.
A set restart for the Dragons as a result of Croker not being square on the marker gave the Dragons the momentum they needed to get back in the game.
It was Matt Dufty that snatched up the opportunity to cruise over the try line, giving the Dragons their first points in the game.
Elliot Whitehead was sent for a HIA in the 18th minute after copping a loose arm to face when making the tackle but was later cleared to return to play.
Curtis Scott came on to replace Whitehead and was quick to make an impact, forcing an error from the Dragons.
Dragons were quick to bite back with some nifty ball work between Lomax and Jason Saab that sent Lomax packing for a trip over the try line, he then polished it off with a successful conversion to put the Dragons 12-points behind the Raiders at 22-10.
Young gun Emre Guler was impressive in what was his first game as a starting player but he was forced to come off in the 70th minute with a suspected ankle injury.
Dragons weren’t going down without a fight. Euan Aiken made a break down the right side before passing to speedster Dufty who was away, to score his second try of the evening. Lomax kicked the conversion in recording timing to give the Dragons just over 90 seconds to try and produce another try for a shot a golden point.
Dragons played some quick football to get them down to the try line, which had Raiders fans on the edge of their seat, but the Dragons weren’t able to pull it off, giving the Green Machine a 22-16 win.