Controversy as Raiders win thriller to keep season alive

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Canberra Raiders v St George Illawarra Dragons

The Canberra Raiders have escaped with a 24-22 win over the St. George Illawarra Dragons on Sunday afternoon to keep their season alive in thrilling fashion.

It may have been a much-needed victory for the Raiders, who now move two points behind the eighth-placed Roosters, but it felt as much like a defeat for the men from the nation's captain given their inability to close out the game.

Going up 24-12 early in the second half, the Raiders looked on track for a straightforward win but it was anything but, with Canberra even struggling to set up for the match-winning field goal.

Raiders front rower Josh Papalii put it best in the post-game interview, telling Fox League: "We're pretty good at shooting ourselves in the foot".

The Dragons almost went 80 metres to score on the siren when Ben Hunt put Mathew Feagai through a gaping hole, only for the winger to be pulled up 15 out from the line.

There was controversy with suggestions Feagai should have earned a penalty after Raiders players slowed the play-the-ball down, with a final shove from Corey Harawira-Naera put under the spotlight.

In the end, no penalty was blown with the Raiders surviving in dramatic circumstances.

The Red V were their own worst enemy earlier in the game though, made to pay for a mistake after a loose carry from Jack Bird led to points, with Hudson Young pouncing on a pinpoint Zac Woolford kick.

The Raiders hooker continued to put his stamp on the game early, bursting through the middle off the set after points to keep Canberra rolling up the field. 

No points came from that linebreak but the home side was well on top at that stage, until an Albert Hopoate error gifted the Dragons prime field position and five-eighth Talatau Amone took full advantage.

Fancy footwork from the 20-year-old playmaker levelled up the scores before Amone backed up in support in the 20th minute to score his second try, this one off a Bird offload.

Amone inspired the Dragons into the lead but it was one of Canberra's brightest young stars, Xavier Savage, who stepped up when his team needed it most. 

First, a confident Savage put Albert Hopoate away deep inside the Raiders' half before popping up on the left edge to set up Jordan Rapana in the corner for Canberra's second try of the afternoon.

That saw the scores tied up once again before Ryan Sutton came up with one of the individual plays of the game, charging down a Hunt kick to score in the 36th minute.

The Raiders had another chance to put on points before the break but were a muddled mess inside the Dragons' red zone, failing to even set up for a field goal and settling for a 18-12 halftime lead.

They were not so wasteful with their first opportunity in the second half though, with Hopoate grounding a Savage kick after the Dragons sent the restart out on the full to gift the Raiders a full set on their line.

The Dragons were there for the taking, coughing the ball up and almost asking to be put away, but the Raiders could not strike with the killer blow and were eventually made to pay.

With just over 10 minutes left Hunt, who kicked a 40-20 earlier in the game, nailed a 20-40 this time around before Amone took the line on to score his third of the afternoon and reduce the deficit to six.

Amone then put Tautau Moga over in the corner to set up a grandstand finish, with Zac Lomax's attempted conversion waved away, leaving the Dragons trailing by two.

Anthony Griffin's side fell agonisingly short of pulling off a miracle and face the Tigers next week while the Raiders take on the Sea Eagles.

Canberra Raiders 24 - St George Illawarra Dragons 22

Venue: GIO Stadium Canberra, Bruce
Crowd: 11216
Halftime Score: Canberra Raiders 18 St George Illawarra Dragons 12

LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Talatau Amone
2 points - Xavier Savage
1 points - Ben Hunt

CANBERRA RAIDERS (24)
Tries: Hudson Young, Jordan Rapana, Ryan Sutton, Albert Hopoate
Conversions: Jamal Fogarty (4/4)

ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS (22)
Tries: Talatau Amone (3), Tautau Moga
Conversions: Zac Lomax (3/4)


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