Round 10 v Canberra Raiders
The St George Illawarra Dragons were 16-12 victors over the Canberra Raiders at UOW Jubilee Oval, Kogarah on Thursday.
The Red-and-Whites were forced to contest golden-point but scrapped away with the two-competition points after a vital intercept by centre Euan Aitken who scored in the 85th minute of play.
Head Coach Paul McGregor had opted against making any positional changes ahead of the match with only utility Jake Marketo brought in for prop Jacob Host on the interchange.
It had proven to be the right decision as the Holy Cross Rhinos junior was the orchestrator for the team’s opening try in the 16th minute of play.
Marketo, having only been on the field for mere minutes, managed to weave his way through three markers after a strong attacking and unselfishly offloaded to second-rower Tyson Frizell to crash over the stripe.
Dragons captain Gareth Widdop soon added the extras to make it 6-0.
The hosts defence thwarted their rivals from scoring throughout the first stanza of play and this trend continued after the interval.
The visitors added further pressure on themselves when they were penalised for impeding Dragons halfback Benji Marshall from playing the ball in the 48th minute.
Widdop’s goal made it 8-0.
However, Raiders centre Jordan Rapana finally breached the home side’s defensive wall with some weaving down the right flank to score in the 54th minute.
Raiders captain Jarrod Croker’s conversion thereafter made it 8-6.
The Dragons replied in style just after the hour mark when centre Tim Lafai and winger Jason Nightingale linked-up for some razzle-dazzle near the left-hand corner post.
The play had seen Lafai pass the ball out wide to Nightingale to score, only for the latter to get cornered-in by two opposing markers.
However, instead of succumbing to defeat, the flanker stepped back into space before providing a unique back-handed flick pass for Lafai to collect and score.
Unfortunately, a clumsy back-palming of the ball by the Toa Samoa international five minutes from time gifted the visitors a neat set-of six which ultimately saw Crocker cross the stripe.
The centre made short work of his conversion to even the game at 12-all.
Both teams had failed several attempts at goal when the first period of golden-point was contested and ironically it took a try to seal victory for the Dragons.
In unique circumstances, Marshall had initially attempted a field goal only for the Raiders to collect and force play to continue up field.
The ball later ended-up in the hands of Rapana who nonchalantly back-passed to fullback Jack Wighton, who in turn intended to throw to shift the ball into the halves.
Instead, it was intercepted by Aitken who had read the play well, before making a quick dash to the stripe for the scoreboard to read 16-12.
St George Illawarra Dragons 16. Tries: Frizell, Lafai, Aitken. Goals: Widdop (1/2). Penalty Goal: Widdop (1/1).
Canberra Raiders 12. Tries: Rapana, Croker. Goals: Croker (2/2).