St George starts its own dynasty in Canberra.
The Canberra Raiders have blown an impressive start and a commanding lead to lose their second consecutive match at home against the St George Illawarra Dragons, 22-20 at GIO Stadium on Saturday night.
Any thoughts of “the hoodoo” were banished from everyone’s mind at the 80th minute mark, when St George registered its first victory of 2015 in dramatic circumstances. The come-from-behind win consigns the Raiders to a 1-win and 2-loss record so far this year, with both defeats occurring at home.
Early on it looked like the Raiders were in for an easy night, with the Dragons’ performance riddled with errors. Canberra took advantage of the situation in the 9th minute of the match, when English-import Josh Hodgson secured a miraculous put-down.
In the 15th minute Iosia Soliola cruised over, before Blake Austin scored a solo effort from a scrum a few minutes later. With Jarrod Croker nailing the conversions from everywhere, the Raiders were up 18-0 and in cruise control.
Nothing was going to plan for the Dragons, with their best effort at the Raiders’ line also dismantled by their own errors in the 24th minute. Canberra should have gone ahead by two-dozen, but another Blake Austin effort was denied for a supposed double-movement.
It was a sign that the tide was beginning to turn, when soon after the Dragons finally found the line through Trent Merrin. Just before the break the Dragons also kicked a penalty goal—one that would prove to be crucial. The Raiders went to the turn up 18-8.
It took only eight minutes into the second stanza for the Dragon’s comeback to gain even more momentum, with Jason Nightingale scoring an impressive try in the corner. Suddenly the differential was only six.
Croker took advantage of a penalty soon after to extend the lead back to eight points at 20-12. But the Dragons were determined to do whatever it would take to stay in the match, with Josh Dugan committing a professional foul in the 55th minute. His theft of the ball as Croker ran back for a quick twenty-metre tap saw him spend some time in the sin bin.
While the Canberra crowd was happy about seeing the ex-Raiders leave the field, it only seemed to inspire the Dragons further. They had one try denied by the video referee, before Mitch Rein made the Canberra defence look woeful. He strolled through the line from thirty metres out and got the score to 20-16.
Then in the 74th minute the visitors hit the lead for the first time in the match, when former Raider Joel Thompson scored out wide and Gareth Widdop secured the conversion. It would prove to be the best time to take the lead, as Canberra was unable to end the game with a miracle.
The joy was evident for all to see for the Dragons, as they notched up their first win of the year; while the despair was just as obvious for the home side, throwing away a perfect start to slump to consecutive losses.
Dragons: 22 (Tries—Merrin, Nightingale, Rein, Thompson; Goals—Widdop 3/4)
Raiders: 20 (Tries—Hodgson, Soliola, Austin; Goals—Croker 4/4)
Did Austin’s no-try cost Canberra a win?