Dragons Win In Nation's Capital
The St George Illawarra Dragons were 34-16 winners over the Canberra Raiders at GIO Stadium, Canberra on Saturday.
The Red-and-Whites notched a brace of tries in the win with winger Brett Morris securing an individual hat trick.
Head Coach Paul McGregor was forced to make several changes to his line-up following captain Ben Creagh’s late withdrawal after suffering a minor hamstring strain during training on Friday.
Consequently, Dragons prop Mike Cooper shifted into the starting forward pack while winger Brett Morris was christened skipper for the fixture.
Additionally, Dragons utility Kyle Stanley made his return to first-grade after returning to the interchange bench following his efforts for the Illawarra Cutters in the NSW Cup.
The Raiders were the quickest off the mark when play commenced and found themselves taking an early lead in the second minute courtesy of second-rower Josh Papalii.
Raiders centre Jarrod Croker converted to make it 6-0.
However, the early setback did not deter the visitors who found themselves replying in turn soon thereafter with a try to winger Brett Morris in the seventh minute.
The Australia international had been the beneficiary of centre Peter Mata’utia’s strong carrying dash down the left flank to peg his team’s points deficit back to two.
The Dragons continued applying pressure to the home side’s defence and managed to breach it once more courtesy of some strong attacking play again down the left side in the 18th minute.
Dragons hooker Mitch Rein commenced the play 20-metres out from the try line with a swift pass out wide to five-eighth Gareth Widdop, who threw to Matau’tia who in turn found Morris unmarked on the flank to score.
Widdop converted to make it 10-6.
The Raiders though levelled proceedings on the half hour mark through fullback Jordan Rapana who with great speed ran 50-metres unopposed to score.
Croker converted to make it 12-10.
The Raiders extended their points-advantage following the interval with Croker crossing the stripe to extend it out to six in the 45th minute.
The Dragons though rallied and once more clawed their way back to within two points when centre Josh Dugan crossed the stripe in the 49th minute.
The NSW Blues representative successfully notched his first try at his former home ground after receiving a long cut-out pass to the right by Widdop following the latter’s lateral run from the left.
The visitors good fortune continued when Mata’utia charged across the line from the left-edge unscathed in the 56th minute.
The Dragons managed to open-up a six-point advantage over their hosts shortly after the hour mark when winger Jason Nightingale followed suit in the 61st minute.
Widdop successfully converted to make it 24-16.
Morris managed his third try of the encounter with a superman-like try similar down the left-edge with five minutes remaining.
Widdop converted to make it 30-16.
Not to be outdone, Nightingale followed suit with a try scored in similar fashion on the brink of fulltime to help secure the Club’s first win in the nation’s capital in 14 attempts.
St George Illawarra Dragons 34. Tries: Morris (3), Nightingale (2), Dugan, Mata’utia. Goals: Widdop (3/7).
Canberra Raiders 16. Tries: Papalii, Rapana, Croker. Goals: Crocker (2/3).