Proof in Canberra that nothing lasts forever.
The Canberra Raiders side of 2014 has proven to be the first in fourteen years to lose to the St George Illawarra Dragons at home, after going down 34-16 at GIO Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
After having the lead twice in the game, the Green Machine was unable to maintain the ascendancy when it counted—the Dragons flying home to post the record-ending victory.
The winning streak looked like it was in safe hands early on in the match after Josh Papalii crashed over in just the 3rd minute. Jarrod Croker sent the conversion over with ease to make the score 6-0 and it looked like the Raiders could create a significant gap on the scoreboard in what was the annual Close-the-Gap round of the NRL.
But St George was determined to make the match a contest and do everything possible to end the Canberra hoodoo. The scoring for “The Red V” began through Brett Morris in the 7th minute of the game—the missed conversion keeping the Raiders just ahead.
The flying winger made it two tries soon after and the Dragons hit the front, going up 10-6. Paul Vaughan went close to regaining the lead for Canberra—his attempt denied by the video referee—before Jordan Rapana went one better after being the beneficiary of an Anthony Milford line-break.
Going into half-time the Raiders were ahead 12-10, and following the break the good news continued; Jarrod Croker demonstrating why he is still in the mix for the leading point-scorer of the season. The centre scored his seventeenth try of the year in the 44th minute and suddenly all the momentum was with the home side.
In a cruel twist of irony for Canberra, it was former Raider bad boy Josh Dugan who got the Dragons back in the hunt for the two competition points. His try in the 49th minute had the scoreline much tighter at 16-14.
Following on from a penalty, the Dragons created a pristine sweeping move across the field in the Raiders’ half to hit the lead again at 18-16. Then it was a piece of Benji Marshall magic that broke the game wide open, as a pinpoint kick found Jason Nightingale and he scored out wide to make the score 24-16.
The eight-point buffer made the Raiders desperate, and the resulting retaliatory play spoke volumes for the Green Machine’s disappointing season. Jarrad Kennedy dropped the ball as he tried to plant it over the line—a letdown that seemed to kill off any chance of a comeback.
That fate was sealed in the 75th minute as an acrobatic Josh Morris collected his third try of the afternoon in the corner. The nail was driven into Canberra's coffin with a final four-pointer to Nightingale in the last minute of the match.
The Dragons did what they needed to do to stay in finals contention, but for the Canberra Raiders it was just another disappointment in a long and debilitating season. The players will now have to start the streak again next year, knowing they wouldn’t be able to surpass the effort again until 2029.
At this rate they may not win another premiership until then either.
Dragons: 34 (Tries: Morris 3, Nightingale 2, Dugan, Mata’utia; Goals: Widdop 3/7)
Raiders: 16 (Tries: Papalii, Rapana, Croker; Goals: Croker 2/3)
Just when are things going to improve for the Green Machine?