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NRL Match Report: Raiders grind out gritty win over Dragons

The Canberra Raiders have pitched a second-half shutout to beat the St George-Illawarra Dragons 20-12 at Cbus Super Stadium on Friday evening.

Jordan Rapana was immense for the Raiders, as he continuously made crucial plays to stop the Dragons from scoring.

Despite the victory, the Raiders will want to work on their discipline as errors and penalties gave the Dragons the better of territory and possession.

The Dragons had a rough start when centre Cody Ramsey went off 30 seconds after kickoff due to a head clash with Andrew McCullough. Ramsey failed his HIA and wouldn’t return.

Corey Norman put over Dragons’ winger Mathew Feagai for the game’s first points with a floating cutout pass just outside the Raiders’ line. Zac Lomax converted to give the Dragons a 6-0 lead after ten minutes.

Jordan Rapana was put on report in the 15th minute due to contact with the head of Blake Lawrie after Rapana’s leg clashed with Lawire’s head. Lomax added two points from the ensuing penalty.

Rapana redeemed himself in the 23rd minute with a try, thanks to a piece of brilliance by Harley Smith-Sheilds. Elliott Whitehead put through a grubber into the Dragons’ in goal, and it looked to be going out of bounds before Smith-Sheilds tapped the ball back infield into the waiting arms of Rapana. Jarrod Croker converted to reduce the Dragons’ lead to two points.

The Dragons’ extended their lead to six points after Adam Clune broke through the Raiders defence at halfway and found a rampaging Tariq Sims for the try. Lomax couldn’t convert, leaving the score at 12-6.

Jack Wighton then scored for the Raiders with a spectacular ariel effort in the 34th minute. He flew above the pack to nab Sam William’s kick out of the air and found his way to the try line with Dragons’ defenders hanging off him. Croker converted to level the scores at 12-12.

The Raiders had a rocky end to the first half, making a play the ball error inside their 20-metre line with a minute to go, but the Green Machine’s defence held firm and they went into halftime level with the Dragons.

The Raiders had the perfect start to the second half when Tom Starling scored from Dummy Half. Starling found some lazy markers just outside the Dragons’ line and used his speed to exploit the opening, eventually going over to score despite having three defenders trying to stop him.

Raiders’ interchange forward Emre Guler was put on report in the 47th minute after his shoulder contacted the head of Jack Bird.

As the half wore on, the Raiders couldn’t get out of their own end of the field through a combination of penalties and errors. But the Raiders created a green wall and repelled the Dragons set after set.

When the Raiders finally got back into Dragons’ territory, they almost scored through Josh Papalii after he pounced on a loose ball close to the line. However, upon further review, Jack Wighton’s index finger had knocked the ball on in the lead-up.

With 13 minutes left to go, Raiders half Sam Williams put in a massive kick to find a 40/20 and put the Raiders in excellent field position. Zac Lomax hit Jack Wighton around the head with a lazy arm in the next set, and Jarrod Croker took the lead out to eight points from the penalty.

Jack De Belin was put on report in the 74th minute after dangerous contact with the legs of Jordan Rapana. Semi Valemei went close to scoring in the next set as he tried to power through the Dragons’ defence, and it took six defenders to force the flying Fijian into touch.

Elijah Anderson came on to the field with minutes left to make his debut as Raider #378.

Canberra Raiders 20 (Tries: J Rapana, J Wighton, T Starling; Goals: J Croker 3; Penalty Goals: J Croker) St George-Illawarra Dragons 12 (Tries: M Feagai, T Sims; Goals: Z Lomax; Penalty Goals: Z Lomax)