The Raiders survived a late comeback from the spirited Dragons to escape with a 24-22 win on Sunday afternoon which keeps them in the hunt for the playoffs and effectively ends their opponent's hopes of making the finals in 2022.
Trailing 24-12 with 14 minutes left in the game, St George Illawarra scored twice to set up a grandstand finish, with only a missed sideline conversion from Zac Lomax denying them the chance to take the match to golden point.
In the end of the Dragons will rue making costly errors at the start of each half - which saw them drop the ball on their opening set and then kick out on the full to start the second half - with Canberra, who were without their suspended coach Ricky Stuart and influential prop Joseph Tapine, scoring tries on both occasions.
After missing last week with an ankle issue, fullback Xavier Savage was among Canberra's best at GIO Stadium, setting up two tries to go with 169 running metres, while on the other side Dragons playmaker Talatau Amone was outstanding, scoring three tries.
Savage kicks for Hopoate to score
Hudson Young got to a clever grubber from Zac Woolford for the opener in the first minute, but any chance of the Green Machine piling on more early points was quickly shut down by Amone, who scored twice with spirited individual efforts to put his side up 12-6, with the help of a pair of Lomax conversions.
Amone levels for Dragons
But the lead didn't last long, as Savage kicked off an attacking move down the right which finished in him providing the final pass down the left a few tackles later for Jordan Rapana to score.
Jamal Fogarty converted from the sideline to tie scores, before Ryan Sutton charged down a Ben Hunt kick and collected the ball for a try under the sticks.
Up 18-12, Albert Hopoate scored on Canberra's first set of the second stanza after the Dragons kicked out on the full, with Fogarty's ensuing conversion doubling their advantage.
A monster 20-40 kick from Hunt gave St George Illawarra field position with 12 minutes left, and Amone crossed for his third, before Tautau Moga scored in the corner, but crucially Lomax missed the ensuing conversion.
Ben Hunt does it again
Canberra then held on for a frantic final few minutes to claim victory.
- The win leaves Canberra just one win back from the eighth-placed Roosters.
- St George Illawarra leaked tries in the opening minute of each half following errors.
- Raiders second-rower Elliott Whitehead was placed on report for a dangerous tackle in the 23rd minute.
- The Raiders got the job done without coach Ricky Stuart, who was suspended following comments made in his post-match press conference in round 21.
- Both side's completed at above 80 percent, with the Raiders finishing 85 percent of their sets and the Dragons 81 percent.
- Blake Lawrie powered through for 160 metres in the middle for the Dragons, while Josh Papalii had 150 for the Raiders.
Play of the game
An effort play with the ultimate reward. Ryan Sutton swarmed on Ben Hunt as he went to kick from deep inside his own half, making clean contact with the ball and causing it to dribble helpfully into the in-goal area where he touched it down unopposed.
Sutton chargedown leads to try
What they said
“Well first I’m very proud of the effort, I thought it was a fantastic effort. We were both playing for our seasons and I couldn’t have been prouder of the endeavour and the want in the team but in vital stages we leaked points, 22 should have been enough to win the game. I thought he (Amone) was outstanding… in our most important game of the year I thought he really stood up. It’s probably a little bit ironic isn’t it, compared to the last game, we just ran out of time." - Dragons coach Anthony Griffin
"We make it hard for ourselves at times, we tend to get the lead and then let teams come back and that's something that we need to fix looking forward but we're just happy to get the win tonight. After the week we've had, I thought the performance was really good." - Raiders captain Elliot Whitehead
Both sides play again on Sunday in round 23, with the Raiders heading to McDonald Jones Stadium to take on the Knights and the Dragons at home to the Titans.
Canberra will have the services of winger Nick Cotric again after he missed the Dragons match due to suspension, while they'll be sweating on the fitness of Joseph Tapine too.