Hunt's Origin statement as Raiders fade again

NRL2021
Embed from Getty Images
St George Illawarra Dragons v Canberra Raiders

Ben Hunt has put his hand up for a State of Origin recall after a masterful display in the Dragons' 22-20 comeback win over Canberra.

Hunt is at his best taking on the line and ran 16 times for 132 metres in the win.

It was an all-round statement from the former Maroon who added three linebreaks, two linebreak assists, a try assist and a 40-20.

Meanwhile, Jack de Belin had his best performance since returning to the NRL after running for a team-high 155 metres and making 31 tackles.

For the Raiders it was yet another second-half fadeout after blowing an early 12-0 lead.

The opening try of the night was a simple one - with Canberra lining up outside men on the right edge but Josh Hodgson instead played it short and direct for Corey Harawira-Naera who crashed over.

Poor last-tackle options continued to prove costly for the Dragons, who were battling for ascendancy running into the wind.

Struggling to make sense of how to handle the conditions, the home side were made to pay for its indecisiveness after a cheap turnover saw the Raiders extend the lead through Sebastian Kris.

If there was one Dragon though who was leading the way it was Ben Hunt, whose running game proved dangerous on multiple occasions in the first half.

In the 31st minute though it was Hunt's ball-playing that came up trumps, passing it against the grain for Billy Burns who sliced through.

Sam Williams impressed off the boot in testing conditions, nailing both conversions for Canberra plus a late penalty goal to make it 14-6 at the break.

The Raiders quickly extended the buffer when Joe Tapine surged over to capitalise on a Hunt error.

There was then quite the drama early in the second half as Xavier Savage was brought on as 18th man after Kris failed to return following dangerous contact from Jack Bird.

Bird though was not sent to the bin or sent off, meaning the 18th man should not have been activated and Savage's debut was eventually cut short.

Tyrell Sloane, on the other hand, was swarmed on after scoring on debut after chipping on the last and following through to support Corey Norman.

It came after Hunt once again proved the spark when he took the line on and once again linked with Billy Burns who put Gerard Beale over.

Jack Wighton had also threatened at times with his running game and looked to have scored when he danced through in the 59th minute but an obstruction was later ruled.

Hunt though continued to make a statement to Queensland selectors as he nailed a 40-20 that led to Paul Vaughan offloading to put Norman over as the Dragons hit the lead for the first time in the game.

It ended up being enough as the Dragons held on for a tense win, with the Raiders complaining late of a second effort that forced Semi Valemei into touch and buried any chance of a late victory.

The Dragons face the Warriors next round (after Origin II) while the Raiders host the Titans - with both games having huge bearings on the top-eight race.

St George Illawarra Dragons 22 - Canberra Raiders 20

Venue: WIN Stadium
Crowd: 9239
Halftime Score: St George Illawarra Dragons 6 Canberra Raiders 14

LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Ben Hunt
2 points - Jack de Belin
1 points - Josh Papali'i

ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS (22)
Tries: Billy Burns, Corey Norman, Gerard Beale, Tyrell Sloan
Conversions: Corey Norman (2/4)
Penalty Goals: Corey Norman (1/1)

CANBERRA RAIDERS (20)
Tries: Corey Harawira-Naera, Sebastian Kris, Joseph Tapine
Conversions: Sam Williams (3/3)
Penalty Goals: Sam Williams (1/1)


See how it happened in our Match Centre