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Canberra have defeated the Dragons for the first time in four years at GIO Stadium after a golden point try to Elliot Whitehead saw them home 18-14 in front of more than 10,000 faithful in the nation's capital.
Despite dominating the opening couple of sets, St George Illawarra conceded first points after seven minutes, Nick Cotric scoring the first try of the evening for the Raiders.
The Saints wrestled the momentum back not long after the opener, with Gareth Widdop running in support of a Nene Macdonald break, scoring under the posts and converting himself to level scores at 6-all. It wasn't the easiest of opening 15 minutes though, with the Dragons losing prop Russell Packer to injury, not to return for the evening.
A few minutes after the Widdop try the visitors almost went ahead quickly - but Joel Thompson was denied by the Bunker with the men underground unable to overturn the on-field call of 'no try' due to a dubious attempt at grounding the ball. They didn't have to wait long for their second four-pointer with Nightingale scoring down the left flank just after the 20 minute mark.
The boys in the Red V took a four point lead into the break, which Widdop was able to extend shortly after when he added a penalty goal from right in front. The Dragons appeared to be in control after the resumption but aside from the penalty goal, struggled to add points. It would be to their detriment at the hour mark, with Aidan Sezer plucking an intercept out of the air on his own ten metre line, running 90 metres untouched to score under the posts. Croker had no trouble levelling proceedings at 12-all.
At 14-all, a field-goal shootout dominated the final ten minutes. Sezer and Blake Austin missed three attempts between them for the Green Machine between the 72nd minute and fulltime, while both of Widdops attempts for the Saints were off-line as well. Controversy reigned late in the game as well - Josh Dugan levelled by a Josh Papalii shoulder charge, the former taken from the field for a Head Injury Assessment, but the latter only being penalised.
The deadlock wasn't broken by the 80th minute, so golden point awaited. Strangely - in the three minutes of extra time there were no field goal attempts. The Raiders and Dragons started with a set each, both finishing with kicks designed to trap their opposition deep in their own territory. It worked for the Raiders, but for the visiting side it backfire badly when Sezer bagged a 40/20 early in the set, giving his side six tackles to secure the result just 15m from the Dragons' line.
The final play of the game was a classic one from two of the Raiders' big men - Dave Taylor hit the line and spun just a metre out, offloading to Elliot Whitehead who ran a simple inside line to crash over for the match winner and send the locals into raptures.
It was an important victory for Canberra, who will now host ladder leaders Melbourne next Saturday as they look to keep their flagging finals hopes alive. For the Dragons, they will host fellow top eight side Manly at home in Wollongong next Sunday, although they have a fairly easy run after that with a trip to Newcastle and home games against the Rabbitohs and Titans to come.
Canberra Raiders 18 - St George Illawarra Dragons 14
Venue: GIO Stadium Canberra
Halftime Score: Canberra Raiders 6 St George Illawarra Dragons 10
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Aidan Sezer
2 points - Gareth Widdop
1 points - Dave Taylor
CANBERRA RAIDERS (18)
Tries: Nick Cotric, Aidan Sezer, Elliot Whitehead
Field Goals: Aidan Sezer (0/1), Blake Austin (0/2)
Conversions: Jarrod Croker (2/2)
Penalty Goals: Jarrod Croker (1/1)
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS (14)
Tries: Gareth Widdop, Jason Nightingale
Field Goals: Gareth Widdop (0/2)
Conversions: Gareth Widdop (1/2)
Penalty Goals: Gareth Widdop (2/2)