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Raiders outlast Dragons despite Ravalawa hat-trick

A Mikaele Ravalawa hat-trick was not enough to lift the Dragons to a pair of competition points with the Canberra Raiders coming away 36-26 victors at WIN Stadium on Friday night.

Newcomers Paul Turner and Dan Russell became Dragons #265 and #266 when they took the field in front of the Wollongong faithful.

A Matt Frawley four-pointer on the stroke of half-time gave the visitors a 24-6 edge before a quartet of Dragons tries in the space of 22 minutes brought them back within a try. However with Turner, Jayden Sullivan, and Jacob Liddle all unable to finish the match due to injury worries, Ryan Carr’s men fell short in a gutsy showing.

The Raiders were on the board within 10 minutes through Jordan Rapana who found a gap down a narrow short-side after the Dragons were left scrambling off a Matt Timoko break as Ricky Stuart’s men jumped out to an early 6-0 lead.

Joseph Tapine powered his way to the line soon after to improve the Canberra lead to a dozen.

Timoko again made his way into the backfield only to be halted by a desperate cover effort courtesy of Turner.

Ravalawa was denied the Dragons’ opening try after a looping Junior Amone cut-out was ruled forward.

Just shy of the half-hour mark, Timoko found a try of his own after some slick hands on his inside created space down the right touchline and an avenue to more points.

Dan Russell entered the action 32 minutes in and was greeted with a warm cheer for his first taste of NRL action after close to a decade toiling away in state competitions.

Ravalawa got the Dragons on the board shortly before the break in odd fashion out of acting half after Junior Amone came within inches of the stripe the play prior.

Zac Lomax slotted the conversion to cut the Canberra advantage back to 12.

Frawley crossed for the visitors on the stroke of half-time after a Jamal Fogarty grubber cannoned off the upright padding and into his arms to make it 24-6.

It took just 90 seconds for the Dragons to find points on other side of the half after Ravalawa steamed through in pursuit of a Moses Mbye kick to jolt the ball free of Jarrod Croker’s hands and lay the ball on a platter for Lomax to make it 24-10.

The Dragons nearly went the length of the field the corresponding set thanks to a Billy Burns break but were unable to capitalise.

The Raiders answered soon after through a pair of ricocheting Fogarty kicks that ended up in the arms of Timoko who strolled over in the right corner for his second which, despite video intervention, was cleared of an apparent knock-on in the lead-up.

Turner was assisted from the field after being kneed in the midsection whilst defusing a bomb just out from his own try-line 53 minutes in.

A second Ravalawa try breathed some life back into the contest just shy of the hour-mark after an exchange of passing through the middle stripped Raiders’ left edge of numbers and opened the door for the Fijian international to crash over.

Lomax nailed the conversion from the right touchline to cut the lead to 14 and cap off a busy couple of minutes for the centre.

The Red V was back on the attack shortly after thanks a powerful, defensive effort courtesy of Ravalawa which laid the platform for Lomax to notch his second by going aerial to reel in an Amone chip and cut the lead to eight with 17 remaining.

Momentum had shifted back in favour of the hosts with Ravalawa crossing for the third hat-trick of his NRL career the following set off a phenomenal piece of team play that saw he and Burns go back and forth to produce a brilliant four-pointer down the right edge.

Sullivan left the field with an apparent injury concern in the aftermath of the try forcing Carr’s men into a reshuffle with Lomax shifting to fullback, Russell to right centre, and Moses Mbye to halfback.

The Raiders came up with an answer through Sebastian Kris who found his way through on a short-side raid whilst Liddle was left reeling in back-play from a previous set collision that led to him being taken from the field for a head injury assessment.

A successful captain’s challenge earnt the Dragons field position with a little under two minutes remaining, but it proved in vain with the Raiders holding on for a 36-26 victory.

Acknowledgement of Country

St George Illawarra Dragons respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples, where our games are played, our programs are conducted and in the communities we support.

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