George Williams scored his first NRL try in another stellar performance as Canberra Raiders returned to form with a 22-16 victory over St George Illawarra Dragons.
Making their first appearance at their GIO Stadium since the league’s return, Ricky Stuart’s side shrugged off back-to-back defeats with a strong first-half performance, even if St George made a spirited comeback in the final quarter of the match.
England international half-back Williams got his first try just before the break to go along with yet another assist as his team moved up to fifth in the table.
Raiders take control
The Dragons started well enough without threatening but it was a penalty and very harsh error which allowed Canberra to stamp their mark on the game.
Paul Vaughan’s high shot on Ryan Sutton gave them their first attack and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad’s delayed pass allowed Nick Cotric to crawl beyond Matthew Dufty and Zac Lomax into the left corner in the fifth minute.
Then 10 minutes later, Lomax lost the ball in what appeared to be an illegal strip from Raiders skipper Jarrod Croker. St George didn’t challenge and were made to pay as Williams placed a tempting chip to the right wing and Bailey Simonsson timed his lead perfectly to claim it and spin over the line.
Croker converted both tries and Canberra would have been disappointed not to have added to the 12-0 lead with several breakaway opportunities not taken. They did also receive a blow with prop Iosia Soliola forced off with a knock and subsequently failing his head test.
They remained untroubled in defence, with even a sustained period of St George pressure giving them no problems. That allowed them to stretch the margin to 18 points at half-time with Korbin Sims left exposed in the middle of the Dragons line for Williams to step round and celebrate his first try in green.
Too late for Dragons
Canberra have struggled in second halves this season and the away side came out after the break with more aggression, sensing the match wasn’t over yet.
A wonderful Ben Hunt break down the left edge should have got them rolling but the bounce conspired against them as the final ball twisted beyond the reach of Dufty. Mikaele Rivalawa then fumbled a kick from under the sticks, and moments later Jack Wighton dinked a kick in behind and Croker dived on top of it for his first try of 2020.
St George’s hard work in the second half looked to have come to naught, though they gave themselves a whiff of a chance when Corey Norman’s inside kick in behind hit the run of Dufty, though the missed conversion still made the difference three converted scores.
Five minutes later, that was reduced to two. The ball was moved right and Lomax flicked the ball outside him to Jason Saab, who drew the defender before returning for Lomax to run clear and convert for six points.
There were only six minutes left when the Dragons next got a view of the try line and a judged knock-on, controversially upheld after a captain’s challenge, looked to have settled it. Yet again they came back and Euan Aitken’s break allowed Dufty to make it 22-16 for a grandstand final minute, but the Raiders held on.